Do your homework before purchasing property

Cindy Womack-Steele
What a beautiful community we have, and Washington County is a wonderful, rural place to live. 
 I live in Weiser and have always had family in Weiser. Before I moved here 12 years ago, I spent many, many weekends here visiting and taking part in community events with my family. I am writing this  on behalf of myself and not the County Planning and Zoning department although these are things I learned on my job. 
 There are a few things I would like to bring to your attention, to hopefully help yourself or friends and family, if they are thinking of moving here. 
 1. If you are looking for land, or to buy a home with land, please go to one of the title companies and have a deed search done. P&Z will then email, or snail mail you a letter stating what splits or dwelling rights are on the property. We must identify what the original parcel was prior to April 9, 1979. 
 Just because you buy land that doesn’t have a house on it, does not mean you can build on it. Washington County Commissioner’s and the Planning and Zoning Commission’s focus is to preserve as much ag ground as possible. That means limiting the number of splits and dwellings available to a property. We don’t tell people they have to go through a hearing to get a rezone or building right just because we are mean. We have a code and process to follow, and it is up to you, the individual, to do your diligence in researching the property before you buy. 
 2. There is an area of specified use where the county commissioners would like to see the growth go (and growth is coming). 
 The county clerk’s office is currently getting thousands of mining claims to be recorded. Think Elko, Nev. and Spring Creek, Nev. They had a population explosion due to gold mining. We could possibly see this same growth. 
 All along the U.S. Highway 95 corridor is the area of specified use. Ideally this is where we will see the most growth. Again, to protect our farms and ranches. See our Comprehensive Plan on the county website. 
 3. The Planning and Zoning Commission hears land use applications on the third Tuesday of every month. These meetings are open to the public. The P&Z commission’s duty (all volunteers) is to hear these applicants, and determine if the land use is appropriate, by the county code for zoning and send either a recommendation for approval or denial to the Board of Washington County Commissioners. The final decision on land use applications is always decided by the Board of County Commissioners. The P&Z Department simply takes the applications and makes sure the applicant has all the necessary documentation for their hearing. 
 4. There is a process that the P&Z office must legally follow when having a hearing on land use. Once the application is received from the applicant the P&Z must post a legal notice in the newspaper. This notice must be published for two different weeks in the local newspaper. P&Z must mail letters to all neighbors within 300 feet of the proposed land use. And P&Z must post signage at the property, notifying of a planned hearing. There are time requirements for the mailings and legal postings that must be adhered to, or the land use hearing will need to be rescheduled if there isn’t time to do all the above. 
 Most of the community has been extremely nice and the people that come into the office are appreciated. We have so many good-hearted people in this community that are willing to help each other out and will ask questions. 
 I have, however, been to numerous hearings and hear how P&Z decides things or tries to push ordinances through without public input. The main thing I hope you get from this is that P&Z has no decision power. The county commissioners make the final decision on all hearings and proposed ordinances. It is their responsibility to know the county code and to know the processes. 
 If you as a community member have questions, please come in and ask one of the P&Z staff. If you are going to get up in a hearing to say how inept the P&Z department is and tell us we don’t know how to write code and you have it written up at home, please share those notes with us. We don’t claim to be perfect or all knowing, but if you are going to call us out, then let me call you out. We have never received one piece of paper, one phone call, or one in-office visit from those claiming they can do better. It has just been vitriolling with nothing to back it up. So, if you are going to talk the talk then please walk the walk. 
 The Washington County code book and comprehensive plan are both on the Washington County website. I ask that you please do your own research and/or go into the P&Z office and ask about the process. P&Z’s job is to help you put together your land use application so that you are presenting a good case to hopefully get your application recommended for approval. I hope this has given you some clarity on how the P&Z department and the P&Z commission work. 


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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