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For the week of June 21 through June 27, 2000

County approves Baseline Ranch subdivision

Commissioners split on decision


Despite her votes overturning many of the P&Z findings, Commissioner Mix let her frustration with the Supreme Court’s decision be known. She called the court decision a "mockery of what Blaine County has tried to do over a period of years."


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

Feeling tied up by a recent Idaho Supreme Court decision, a visibly frustrated Blaine County Commission grudgingly approved a remanded Baseline Ranch subdivision application Monday in a 2-to-1 decision.

Applicants William and Mary Helen Leet plan to subdivide 104 acres of farmland in the heart of the Bellevue Triangle into four 26-acre parcels.

Monday’s hearing followed a directive by the Fifth District Court that remanded the Baseline Ranch application to the commission following its denial in February.

The denial was based on the Blaine County Comprehensive plan’s mandate to preserve productive agriculture in the south part of the county.

During a public hearing process that began in April 1999, the Leets’ attorney, Gary Slette, argued that the proposed subdivision complied with the county’s subdivision and zoning ordinances. Slette contended that the comp plan was simply a guideline and that the ordinances were the law.

On April 3, the Idaho Supreme Court supported that interpretation in a similar case. The court considered denials by Blaine County of subdivision applications filed for south-county properties by the Urrutia family and by Virginia Reed. The Urrutia and Reed applications were denied by the county in 1994 and 1995, respectively.

Fifth District Court remanded the Leet application to the commission based on that Supreme Court decision.

During Monday’s meeting, Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Doug Werth reminded the commissioners that because of the Supreme Court ruling, the county could not make decisions based solely on the comp plan.

Citing the decision, Werth said the county "should instead have crafted its findings of fact and conclusions of law to demonstrate that the goals of the comprehensive plan were considered, but were simply used in conjunction with the zoning ordinances, the subdivision ordinance and any other applicable ordinances in evaluating the proposed developments."

In making their decision, the commissioners reviewed findings made by the county P&Z, which recommended denial of the application in May 1999.

Commissoner Leonard Harlig often found himself at odds with fellow commissioners Mary Ann Mix and Dennis Wright.

Mix and Wright overturned many of the P&Z’s findings because they were based solely on the subdivision’s noncompliance with the county comp plan.

Harlig, however, contended that not only the comp plan, but county subdivision and zoning ordinances encourage preservation of productive agriculture.

Despite her votes overturning many of the P&Z findings, Mix let her frustration with the Supreme Court’s decision be known. She called the court decision a "mockery of what Blaine County has tried to do over a period of years."

"Given the demand by the Supreme Court that we essentially approve this subdivision to avoid additional court battles—given that, to me it’s unpalatable, but that’s the way it is," she said.

Mix seconded Wright’s motion that due to modifications to the application, the application now conformed with the county’s subdivision ordinance.

Harlig, sticking to his guns, cast the dissenting vote.

 

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