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
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County’s 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 Valley—especially 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.

"You’re crippling the very agricultural people you’re 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 you’d buy stock," Molyneaux told commissioners. "You’re going to tell us when we want to sell we only get 20 percent of our investment? I don’t think you have the right."

Moments later, rancher Katie Breckenridge added, "This document is a de facto down-zone. That’s the bottom line."

More heavy applause followed.

"This is a civil taking," Breckenridge added. "If you’re going to take me down, which is what you’re going to do with this piece of paper, I’m 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 Thursday’s 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 don’t have any option," said Commissioner Leonard Harlig. "We’ll have to have an ordinance in place by September that’ll 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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