Bill would free certain pieces of land from planning and zoning regulations after Valley Co. move

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A bill introduced to the Idaho Legislature would change how cities grow. 

Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, sponsored HB 643, which would exempt certain pieces of land from planning and zoning regulations. 

The bill would remove all requirements for subdividing land that is 80 acres or larger into smaller lots of 20 acres or more. This would allow land to be split and sold without further review. 

Valley Co. vote

A little over a week ago, Valley County Commissioners voted that every land split needed to be reviewed before approval. Commissioner Sherry Maupin said the main reason they voted to do this was the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, changed verbiage in its regulations. 

Prior to the vote, parcels that were 20 acres or larger did not require approval for a split. 

“FEMA regulations state all splits need to be reviewed for floodplain issues and so in order not to get sideways with FEMA, we do need to make sure that we’re looking at all of those for floodplain issues,” Maupin said.

Maupin said she “absolutely” opposes this bill. 

“I totally believe in local control. This takes local control out of the hands of the county in order to plan around the future,” Maupin said. “So I’m absolutely against this bill. And anything that takes control out of our hands for planning tools.”

Wilks brothers

A February lobbyist report form shows that Suzanne Budge, a registered lobbyist for the Wilks Brothers, listed HB 643 as a bill she was working on.

Texas’ Wilks brothers made their fortune from oil fields and purchased hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Idaho. Much of their land is located in Valley, Boise, Adams, and Idaho counties.  

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Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League said for the past year, the Wilks brothers have been trying to dodge local zoning requirements by subdividing and selling 20 acre parcels. He believes HB 643 is in response to Valley County “closing the door” on that last week. 

The bill would impact all counties statewide, not just Valley.

ICL

The ICL opposes this bill for several reasons, but mostly because the measure would put big developers in the driver’s seat and give counties less control over growth. 

“By removing some of the rules with regards to subdivision in those areas, we’re concerned that this could result in basically, development and construction happening in inappropriate places,” he said. “And that it removes some of that local authority that counties have to determine where and how homes and other development occur.”

Oppenheimer said the ICL is also concerned about fire and land management with parcels of this size. 

“The expansion of the wildland-urban interface has been an issue that fire management and land managers have been dealing with and calling attention to for decades,” he said. “And that’s one of our concerns, is that this could result in inappropriate development in areas that are more susceptible to fire and then end up costing more to try to fight those fires and ultimately putting firefighters in harm’s way.”

Statement of Purpose

The bill’s Statement of Purpose reads that current subdivision requirements stop farmers and ranchers from passing down portions of family land. 

“Counties can require all land divisions to comply with highly technical, increasingly expensive, and overly restrictive requirements governing formal subdivisions. The complex and costly subdivision requirements prevent farmers and ranchers from passing portions of family farms and ranches to their children and grandchildren,” the statement reads.

BoiseDev reached out to Gestrin for a comment but did not hear back by deadline.

On February 16, the bill was referred to the House Local Government Committee for a vote.

Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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