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For the week of Nov. 3, 1999 through Nov. 9, 1999

Commissioners reconsider approval of south county subdivision

Express Staff Writer

Following a successful lobbying effort by Blaine County Planning and Zoning, county commissioners on Monday voted to reconsider their approval of a controversial south county subdivision.

On the previous Monday, county commissioners had approved the Baseline Ranch subdivision, located in the heart of the Bellevue Triangle.

The vote had been 2-1, with Commissioners Mary Ann Mix, the chairperson, and Dennis Wright voting "yes" and Commissioner Leonard Harlig the dissenter.

The decision reversed a trend to preserve open space and promote productive agriculture in the south county.

In May, the P&Z had recommended denial of the subdivision, based on what members felt was its nonconformance with the Blaine County Comprehensive Plan’s mandate to preserve agriculture in the south county.

The vote came despite pending litigation challenging the county’s denial of similar south county subdivisions based on similar grounds.

The pending application by William and Mary Helen Leet proposed to subdivide 104 acres into four 26-acre lots. The property is zoned A-20 Productive Agriculture and is located on the southwest corner of Baseline Road and Schoessler Lane.

Following last week’s approval, P&Z Commissioner Cindy Mann—at the panel’s Thursday meeting—called the approval "a signficant departure" from south county land use planning in the past.

"This decision gives us no basis, no grounds to make decisions in the south county in the future," Mann said during the meeting. "It will open the floodgates for more south county subdivision applications in the future."

P&Z Commissioner Tom Bowman asked, "What error did we make in our findings that caused the board to come to a different conclusion?"

On Monday, Mann and Bowman, along with P&Z commissioners Sandy Sullivan, Suzanne Orb and Theresa Comber, showed up at a commission meeting to voice their concerns to persuade the board to reconsider.

"We had a hard time figuring out how you made your decision based on our findings," Sullivan said. He acknowledged, however, that due to changes in the proposal, the application approved by the commissioners was different from the one considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

"We would like to emphasize our concern about the effect the approval will have on future decisions and past decisions as well," Bowman said.

After hearing those and other comments, County Commissioner Mix concluded the board was premature in its approval of the Leet subdivision.

Mix then made a motion to reconsider approval until the applicant made changes in the proposal as requested by the board to assure compliance with the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

The commissioners then unanimously agreed to reconsider the application.

According to Mix, a final decision will not be made until changes to the application are made by the applicant, which, according to Mix, was a condition of approval in the first place.

The changes to which Mix referred involve limiting potential building density to that permitted under A-20 zoning; and clustering building lots to leave as much open space and agricultural land as possible.

Density permitted under A-20 zoning includes accessory dwelling units (ADUs)—which are two guest houses and one employee residence per 20 acre parcel.

Prior to last week’s approval, the applicant had agreed to limit ADUs to a single guest house on one of the four parcels and to reduce the proposed building lots by 50 percent to create cluster development.


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