Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kuna City Council needs better dialogue

Last week’s confusion over a development agreement for an unnamed national chain to move to Kuna, I think, raises a number of troubling questions about how the Kuna City Council conducts business.
But let me say upfront that I think the discussion is an important one and that both sides have valid points that should be considered. In no way is this indicative of “good ’ol boy politics” or anti-business sentiment. Before council is a legitimate, important issue that needs debate.
Unfortunately, though, the City Council, kind of like Congress, appears to be dysfunctional and unable to have a healthy debate.
The good news, in my book, is that the problems are imminently fixable, but council members need to change their attitudes and their practices. I will attempt here to offer some solutions.
First, as a little bit of background, before council members is a development agreement that would allow development of a 1.3-acre parcel of land on the northeast corner of Orchard and Avalon streets. The developer intends to sell the land to a national chain. The sticking point is about 900 feet of distance between the lot and the nearest pressurized irrigation line at Kay Avenue. Council member Rich Cardoza wants the developer to pay the approximately $54,000 to extend the pressurized irrigation line to the site. He argues that other national chains, such as Les Schwab and Walgreens, paid to have pressurized irrigation, water and sewer lines extended to their sites. In addition, Cardoza has a legitimate concern that if the city pays to extend the pressurized irrigation line in this instance, it opens a Pandora’s box of every other developer down the line wanting the city to pay for extension of sewer and water and pressurized irrigation lines.
The other side of the argument, which includes Mayor Scott Dowdy, council members Doug Hoiland and Jeff Lang and city planning director Steve Hasson, holds that the city needs to be business-friendly, the $54,000 cost might chase away the national chain and that this piece of land presents a unique situation in that other commercial developments that have come before, including the Fiesta Guadalajara building, Arctic Circle, Paul’s gas station and the Kuna Lube N Go, were not required to put in pressurized irrigation, leaving a gap of service along that stretch of Avalon.
So, as Dowdy argues, the city made a mistake before by not requiring those developments to at least put in dry lines, but the city shouldn’t make this developer pay for the city’s earlier mistake.
For the moment, let’s delay deciding who’s right and who’s wrong. What I’d like to address here is the dysfunctional process by which City Council is making decisions. My hope is that I can make some suggestions that the mayor and council members will accept and perhaps improve the discussion and the end result.

You can read all of my suggestions in this week's Editor's Notebook.

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