For the week of August 12 thru August 18, 1998
Commissioners move forward with short-term ordinance
County subdivision rules beat-up by some, buttered-up by others
By ALYSON WILSON
Blaine Countys relationship with its proposed subdivision ordinance is one of love and hate.
Last week, local planning officials held several emotion-laden hearings to smooth out the very wrinkled rules for when, where and how development should proceed up and down the Wood River Valleyespecially in the south.
A building moratorium that froze out any new subdivision applications on agricultural and five-acre-lot zoned residential land will thaw on Sept. 11.
By then, county officials must pass a new subdivision ordinance that is legally bullet proof and in line with the Blaine County Comprehensive Plan mandate to preserve agricultural practices in the valley.
The Blaine County commissioners know that many residents think their proposed ordinance, which limits development of agricultural land, is unacceptably onerous.
They got an earful to that tune Thursday during a public hearing.
In voices both wavering and steady, low and loud, and with arms laced tightly across chests, locals let accusations fly at the commissioners and their ordinance.
"Youre crippling the very agricultural people youre trying to save," southern Blaine resident Inge Molyneaux said, winning applause from the full house at the meeting. "This thing looks like something you might find in the Soviet Union."
Molyneaux explained herself by describing the subdivision regulations as a "taking" in which government action deprives landowners of investment rights.
"The farmers bought land like youd buy stock," Molyneaux told commissioners. "Youre going to tell us when we want to sell we only get 20 percent of our investment? I dont think you have the right."
Moments later, rancher Katie Breckenridge added, "This document is a de facto down-zone. Thats the bottom line."
More heavy applause followed.
"This is a civil taking," Breckenridge added. "If youre going to take me down, which is what youre going to do with this piece of paper, Im going to take you down, too."
Others raised more pointed criticisms about antiquated definitions of agriculture and impractical engineering restrictions in the ordinance.
The only actions the commissioners had time to tackle Thursday evening were a few minor language changes.
As a more quiet counterpoint to Thursdays raucous hearing, county officials received letters signed by 53 landowners, who support their efforts and methods to check development.
County planners met with the commissioners Monday. At that time, the commissioners largely stood behind their document. Only one member of the public attended that meeting.
Despite the emotional reactions, the ordinance may not affect the larger picture of Blaine County as much as many people believe.
"We dont have any option," said Commissioner Leonard Harlig. "Well have to have an ordinance in place by September thatll stand the test of time until other things can come through. We may have to amend parts of the ordinance in the future."
The next public hearing on the issue will be Thursday, Aug. 27, at 6:30 p.m. at the old county courthouse on First and Croy in Hailey.
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