Opponents to Blaine County's 2025 planning process were jumping for joy earlier this month when a private property rights-oriented citizen initiative qualified for November 2006 ballots.
The initiative, called Proposition 2, would require Idaho counties to pay landowners whose property values are decreased by land-use laws.
But the Proposition 2 would not apply to land-use laws already in effect, such as the 2025 zoning ordinances, and the county will not be held accountable for any loss in property values, according to a Blaine County attorney.
"Even if it goes into effect, it won't have a retroactive effect," Tim Graves, Blaine County's chief deputy prosecuting attorney, said last month. "My advice would be to downzone now and downzone hard."
The initiative, which received 49,053 valid signatures—it needed 47,881—clearly states that it will "not apply to land-use laws that were enacted before the effective date of this section."
Still, Jerry Mason, attorney for the Idaho Association of Cities, warned that if the initiative were implemented "it would radically change land-use laws."
"The whole land-use process involves balancing private property rights held by all of us who own private property," he said. "This would imbalance that greatly."
The Blaine County 2025 plan consists of seven zoning ordinances designed to curb future growth in rural and environmentally sensitive areas, conserve natural resources and maintain the county's service-providing capabilities. The first four ordinances, which downzoned much of the county's rural areas, were approved by the Blaine County Commission June 27 and became effective July 5.
Many property owners argued that the downzone would devalue their land and violate the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. Some warned that they would sue the county if the ordinances passed.
A similar land-use law, known as Measure 37, passed in Oregon in 2004, but with a key difference: Oregon counties that can't pay an aggrieved landowner must waive the land-use law. The Idaho initiative only requires payment.
According to The Associated Press, Oregon has received claims that total $3.7 billion since the law passed. A Portland man used the law to file a $200 million claim because land-use laws prohibited him from building a power plant, mining operation and 100-home subdivision in a national volcanic monument.
"I know. It causes a chuckle with me, too, but I don't really believe that concept will fit with the views of most Idahoans and the way they want their world to work," said Mason. "But everything I say is somewhat speculative at this point because this is not the most well-written piece of prose you would ever read."