The City of McCall held an educational meeting on building moratoriums last week.
The city held this informative meeting to help officials and residents better understand when a moratorium should be used.
In early March, the city told BoiseDev that the meeting was requested by the council after they had received “many inquiries” about moratoriums. This meeting also was held during a time when McCall is facing a serious affordable housing shortage.
What is a moratorium?
A city can enact a building moratorium to stop development for a time – including to find solutions to problems the city sees. In 2021, the City of Caldwell enacted a six-month moratorium on residential development in response to what at the time was new property tax legislation.
Another example comes from McCall when the city last put a moratorium into effect in 2006. The city adopted a zoning and development code that added inclusionary zoning and more to require future subdivision developments to add affordable housing. The city was sued by the McCall Board of Realtors, who claimed the code was unconstitutional. The council then enacted a moratorium to pause all subdivision applications.
There are two types of moratoriums listed in Idaho State Code – emergency moratoriums and interim moratoriums. Cities are given authority to enact an emergency moratorium if the government finds that the problem is causing “imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare.”
Local attorney William F. Nichols said an emergency moratorium can only be in place for no more than six months, or 182 days, and cannot be extended.
“ The emergency ordinance and moratorium that’s one that you can enact with on very short notice,” Nichols said. “And you don’t have to have a whole lot of advance publication advance notice….but it’s, intended to be something that you can do very quickly to address and very immediate problem.”
An interim moratorium requires more traditional public notice and can last up to a year.
“So it gives an opportunity for the public and affected parties to play in, provide their input with regard to the subject of the moratorium,” Nichols said “And the idea being with these two statutes in tandem is you address the emergency with the emergency moratorium. And then you follow up if necessary with an interim moratorium, where people have the opportunity then to address the issue and to be able to bring their input to the decision-makers in this case the city council so that’s why we have that here.”
Another emergency moratorium cannot be enacted for another year after the first.
Why use a moratorium?
Cities enact moratoriums as a response to development pressure they say they cannot handle at that moment.
The issue of development-related pressure now, according to community and economic development director Michelle Groenevelt includes sewer connection and capacity, lack of local housing, and affordability. The sewer issue is currently being worked on with the Payette Lakes Water and Sewer District.
Groenevelt listed to council questions they should ask to consider when deciding if a moratorium should be placed; is the problem causing imminent peril to public health, safety, or welfare, and what is it? Can the problem be solved within the moratorium allowed timeframe? Is the problem currently being addressed? What are the desired outcomes? What are the positive and negative impacts? And is the moratorium the right solution?
The council did not take any action.