BOISE — The Idaho House voted 38-30 Tuesday to reject a bill that would have made it optional, rather than required, for counties to have plans governing land use in unincorporated areas.

But the House did pass, on a party-line vote with all the Republicans in favor and the Democrats opposed, another bill that would put some more restrictions on how cities can annex unincorporated areas.

Supporters of the land use planning bill cast it as a way for counties to opt out of burdensome and expensive mandates if county commissioners want.

“I think essentially all this bill’s doing is giving counties freedom of choice,” said Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Giddings said Idaho County, which is in her district, doesn’t have a comprehensive plan and it works well for them, but the county is getting legal pressure from the attorney general’s office to change that.

“These comp plans have created a long list of unfunded mandates and counties just can’t keep up with the cost of the requirements,” she said.

Opponents worried it would reduce public input in land use decisions by putting more power in the hands of county commissioners, rather than a planning process that affords opportunities for public comment and greater pushback against their decisions.

“The problem is, if you don’t have a comp plan and you’re up in arms about something that’s happening in your county, there’s not a lot you can do about it,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise. “To me, this isn’t about planners supporting planners, this isn’t about cities supporting planning or counties supporting planning. This is about the public being able to be involved in planning the growth of this state.”

The annexation bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Jarom Wagoner, R-Caldwell, and Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, passed with little debate. It says cities can only annex an enclave if it is surrounded by incorporated areas of the city. Currently, cities can also annex enclaves if they are surrounded by a city’s area of impact but not the city itself. It would ban the annexation of forest or agricultural land without the written consent of the landowner. And, it would require cities to give a property owner 60 days’ notice for an annexation rather than 28.

That bill now heads to the Senate.

Reporter Nathan Brown can be reached at 208-542-6757. Follow him on Twitter: @NateBrownNews.

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