Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kuna should be careful to keep an open government

If you weren’t the owner and editor of the local newspaper, you probably didn’t go to the city of Kuna’s web site,, to check out the agenda for the Aug. 4 City Council meeting.
If you were just an average citizen who lives in, say, the Crimson Point subdivision, you probably wouldn’t have noticed an item on the agenda under “Old business,” something labeled, “REQUESTS SUBMITTED BY GREG JOHNSON, POWDER RIVER DEVELOPMENT, RE CRITERION ORCHARDS SUBDIVISION APPLICATION:
i. Reduction of fees for processing of development application and
ii. Modify minimum size residential sq. footage.”
Now, as an average citizen, you likely wouldn’t know that Criterion Orchards is a proposed development on the east side of Meridian Road, north of Hubbard Road. Being a resident of Crimson Point, you probably wouldn’t have given this agenda item a second thought. You probably would not have even clicked on the link provided for the item.
But if you had done that, you would have found a memo from city planning director Steve Hasson and a letter from Greg Johnson outlining a proposal to reduce the houses sizes in Crimson Point North from 1,550 square feet to 1,200 square feet.
Wait a minute, you might say. Crimson Point? But the agenda item says Criterion Orchards. Yikes, and it’s 2:30 on Tuesday afternoon, and I haven’t made plans to attend the meeting. This is a lot of work for an average citizen. Needless to say, no one was at the Aug. 4 meeting speaking out about Johnson’s proposal to reduce house sizes. Council members began discussing the item, recognizing the shifting marketplace and the demand for smaller houses, etc.
But I had to interrupt. Why was this item under old business, I asked. City Clerk Lynda Burgess said she put it under old business by mistake. But then I asked why this was not a public hearing. Hasson said that the 1550-square-foot requirement was a condition of approval and not part of a development agreement, so it didn’t need to be a public hearing.
But weren’t the conditions of approval part of a public hearing, I asked. In which case, shouldn’t the changing of a condition of approval be part of a public hearing?
After conferring with city attorney Randy Grove, Hasson returned to report that, yes, indeed, changing this condition would require a public hearing, it would be properly noticed and put before council again at a later date at a public hearing, at which the public can weigh in on the merits of reducing house sizes.
Now, I am perfectly willing to give the city the benefit of the doubt, and I don’t like to throw around accusations freely. But, boy oh boy, this one really stinks. This was placed under old business, under another subdivision’s name without proper notice.
Full disclosure: I live in Crimson Point, not far from Crimson Point North, so I have a personal vested interest in the matter.
I think the city faces an interesting debate on minimum house sizes in this market. The ridiculous success of Silvertip with houses 850 square feet to 1300 square feet is telling. The city wants and needs building permits, accompanying revenue from fees and customers for the new treatment plant. Some folks in Crimson Point, likewise, may want more residents to help share homeowner association dues and costs to run the new pool.
The debate will be interesting. But let’s make sure we have a debate. I would warn city officials to avoid trying to pull one over on the good residents of this city.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Good stewardship of the Public's Right to Know!

Gary Ingram, Coeur d'Alene, recepient
2009 Max Dalton Open Government Award