HOUSE BILL 568
Last year, when we discovered that Ada County Commissioners believed they had no choice but to approve a nearly 2,000 home subdivision in the Dry Creek Valley and there was nothing anyone could have said at the public hearing to impact their decision, we decided we would try to give the community back its voice.
After all, the subdivision proposed by Boise Hunter Homes will have a larger population than 86% of municipalities in the state of Idaho and it will have a huge effect on the community.
A referendum is an important democratic process available to citizens. It is a last resort when other means of recourse have failed.
House Bill 568 is an attempt to silence the community's voice and it is a direct reaction to our Dry Creek Ranch referendum. House Bill 568 will make it impossible for any Idahoan to challenge any land use law in the future by petition. This issue is now bigger than Dry Creek; it is bigger than any one subdivision, landscape, or zoning ordinance. It is an attack by Ada County on citizens' rights to be heard and to petition.
HOUSE BILL 568 was signed into law on march 23, 2018.
INFORMATION ABOUT HOUSE BILL 568
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INITIATIVES AND REFERENDA WITH REGARD TO LLUPA:
House Bill 568 states that because the courts have decided that initiatives are incompatible with the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA), by extension this decision should apply to referenda as well.
However, initiatives and referenda differ in a fundamental way with regard to LLUPA.
An initiative involves the approval, amendment, or repeal of new legislation. A referendum involves the approval or repeal of legislation already adopted by the Board of County Commissioners. In 1983, the courts ruled in Gumprecht that initiatives cannot be used in land use decisions because they are not compatible with LLUPA.
The key difference between an initiative and a referendum is that while a measure advanced by an initiative does not give landowners a hearing and other due process protections, a referendum merely asks voters to accept or reject a measure that has had a hearing and has enjoyed the due process protections of LLUPA for landowners.
A SERIOUS CITIZENS’ RIGHTS ISSUE:
Recognizing the fundamental democratic principal that all political power derives from the citizens themselves, Idaho lawmakers provided for direct democracy by giving citizens the right to put forth their own legislation or to accept or reject legislation adopted by their elected officials.
From the beginning, Ada County has mismanaged this project. The Board of County Commissioners and Boise Hunter Homes have ignored, dismissed, and in some cases even retaliated against citizens who oppose this legislative ordinance.
Commissioner Case did not disclose the campaign contribution he received from Boise Hunter Homes to the public before (or after) approving Ordinance 864.
Commissioners Case and Tibbs voted to deny funding to an organization solely because they did not like the political opinions of employees expressed in their personal capacity about this legislation.
Commissioners believed they had to adopt Ordinance 864 or they would be sued by Boise Hunter Homes and they would lose. Whether or not this was actually true, their belief deprived citizens of the opportunity to have a real say about an ordinance governing an $80 million dollar development that will have a larger population than 86% of municipalities in the state of Idaho.
Because of the way citizen involvement was stifled at every opportunity, a referendum was the only recourse. Given the corruption and mismanagement of this project, it is of the utmost importance that citizens have a mechanism available to them to hold their elected officials accountable.
The referendum is this mechanism.
PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS:
Representative Clow presents the referendum process as an unfair assault on private property rights. However, any project proposal made by any property owner is subject to law, code, and approval by the relevant government body.
Boise Hunter Homes abused the application process by using a completely different plan by a different developer approved 6 years prior to strong arm the approval of a new project that would never have been approved had they been obliged to go through the entire application process in 2016.
Consequently, a project proposed in 2016 that won't be finished until 2032 is subject to the 1997 Comprehensive Plan. Boise Hunter Homes disregards public opinion as well as the current goals and priorities of Ada County, claiming a right to the adoption of the ordinance governing their subdivision.
Boise Hunter Homes has a right to own the land they purchased. They have a right to submit an application for a project they want to build. They do not have a right to the approval of that project or to a law governing their land.
The referendum is not about taking away any right from Boise Hunter Homes or any property owner. It is about citizens’ right to say no to legislation passed by the Board of County Commissioners – an approval made possible by a private company controlling the planning process.
In filing a petition for referendum, our organization complied with current Idaho Law and Ada County Code. The Board of County Commissioners claiming after the fact that land use decisions should be exempt from the referendum process is wrong. As citizens, if we cannot rely on laws as they are written, what possible foundation can there be for any citizen action?
In the end, the Idaho Supreme Court may decide that these types of land use decisions cannot be subject to the referendum process. This does not mean that, before such a decision is made, citizens should be prevented at the outset from engaging in this democratic process.