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 Courts 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.
Mondays hearing followed a directive by the Fifth District Court
that remanded the Baseline Ranch application to the commission following its denial in
The denial was based on the Blaine County Comprehensive plans
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
countys 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 Mondays 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&Zs findings because they
were based solely on the subdivisions 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 Courts 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 battlesgiven that, to me its
unpalatable, but thats the way it is," she said.
Mix seconded Wrights motion that due to modifications to the
application, the application now conformed with the countys subdivision ordinance.
Harlig, sticking to his guns, cast the dissenting vote.