Letter To The Editor From Randy Bergquist

November 16, 2020
Dear Editor,
It’s about time! The Washington County comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance are in need of serious revisions to account for current realities and roll back the oppressive hand of government on private property rights. The statewide pressure applied to all cities and counties in the 1970’s to enact planning and zoning laws was sold as a way to preserve prime agricultural land. Like most government mandates it has had almost the opposite unintended consequences. 

Many counties, including ours, but not Idaho county, instituted “original parcel” rules allowing existing parcels as of 1979 to only be split into 4 parcels of at least 1 acre going forward unless an approved subdivision. If not an “original parcel”, “no dwelling shall be sold, transferred or built with less than 20 acres of lot area”. Sounds great if you’re trying to preserve farmland, right? 

WRONG! The unintended consequence is that prime farmland has to be sold in bigger chunks to meet the code requirements. When a farmer needs income to retire they’re not “allowed” to sell smaller parcels that would provide the income, and leave the bulk of the farmland intact to sell as a farm to someone else. Additionally, other “original parcels” that have already been split, but are marginal land for farming, can’t be split further to provide needed building lots. There are many multiple acre lots like this within the county. This would help preserve other prime farmland. 

Private property rights are more important than any of the arguments previously stated, but seem to matter less and less in the current climate we live in. The proposed changes by our current commissioners, and, hopefully, supported by those who will continue to represent us, would go a long way toward reversing these trends. 

Please send a note to our current county commissioners, commissioner elect Lyndon Haines, and Bonnie Brent at the planning and zoning office if you support these efforts to make things better. Bonnie can be contacted at Bonnie Brent <bbrent@co.washington.id.us>. 
Best regards,Randy Bergquist, Weiser, Idaho

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