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Hemingway in Sun Valley
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For the week of December 6 through 12, 2000

Slowing the stampede

There’s hope on the horizon that the valley’s charms may be preserved, even as the population tide rises.

Blaine County has taken two important steps to exert some control over two of the uglier sides of growth: automobile traffic and the proliferation of electronic communications towers.

With the help of an $80,000 grant from the Idaho Transportation Department, the county will study creation of a regional transportation authority. It has hired an experienced consulting firm to analyze commuter needs and possible remedies to highway congestion.

The county, with the support of the valley’s cities, has also hired a consulting firm to develop a county-wide plan for dealing with the proliferation of communications towers.

The towers look like the products of a kid’s erector set on steroids. If not controlled, they could sprout in every open field and scenic ridge in sight.

The popularity of personal communication devices—cell phones, personal planners and Internet devices—has stampeded the private sector into a frenzy as it tries to meet the enormous demand. Problem is, no one is concerned about the posies underfoot when a full-blown stampede is under way.

That’s not a good idea in a valley that values its landscape.

Last week, consultants met with members of the public, elected officials and planners from the county and all but one city. The consultants will come back with model ordinances that the county and the cities can use to get the towers under control.

The meetings demonstrated the value of bringing the county and cities together to work on common problems with the aid of experienced consultants.

Until the county and cities slapped on a tower moratorium and hired consultants, the stampede threatened to trample the local landscape.

The consultant-assisted problem-solving model--with the county taking the lead and the cities joining in--could be used on many problems that plague the valley: sprawl, highway congestion, and public access to name a few.

Such a model is desperately needed.

Projections that the population of Hailey could reach 14,000 over the next 20 years should cause event the flintiest land planners to flinch. That means the county’s permanent population could double to nearly 40,000. If Highway 75 commuters aren’t hyperventilating now, they will be.

Good, experienced consultants used correctly can bring the valley valuable outside perspectives. They can help the valley avoid mistakes made in other areas by demonstrating what works and what doesn’t. They can help reduce frustrating and divisive political bickering by making sure decision makers have the best information possible.

As it grows, the valley needs a new model to wheel around the stampede of growth problems when they threaten to overwhelm. This one would be a good start.


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