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For the week of January 31 through February 6, 2001

P&Z rejects Ohio Gulch rezone

Express Staff Writer

What could have been an olive branch amid continued skirmishing between the Idaho State Land Board and Blaine County planners died Thursday when the planning and zoning commission voted to recommend that new Ohio Gulch gravel mining rules be rejected.

The draft zoning ordinance would have opened 640 acres of state-owned residential and agricultural land in Ohio Gulch to gravel extraction for public projects to occur without public review.

The county commissioners had earlier turned down an application by a private business to mine gravel on the state-owned parcel, but decided to consider permitting mining there for public projects only.

With the recent proposed measure, county officials hoped to take into consideration the state’s "plans and needs," something state law requires counties to do when deciding whether to impose development restrictions on state-owned land.

But during Thursday night’s short meeting at the old Blaine County courthouse, the members of the P&Z quickly quelled the proposed ordinance when they voted unanimously that it was not in accordance with the Blaine County Comprehensive Plan, a document that governs long-term land-use decisions.

P&Z members agreed with a statement by Commissioner Suzanne Orb that the proposed rezone would have permitted industrial uses for an area set out by the comp plan for agriculture and residences.

County rules allow comp plan amendments, through which the rezone could have taken place, but the commission voted unanimously not to do that because, Orb said, there are "other provisions" in the comp plan for accommodating the uses the state wants.

The rezone must go before the county board of commissioners for a final decision.

County officials may begin examining a new measure to settle their land-use dispute with the state.

On Thursday, attorney Ned Williamson, representing the Mid-Valley Homeowners’ Association, which has vehemently opposed gravel mining in Ohio Gulch, submitted a draft of another ordinance that would amend county planning rules in general to consider the state’s "plans and needs" for all state-owned land in Blaine County, not just in Ohio Gulch.

Marc McGregor, an attorney working for the advocacy group Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth, suggested that solution during a December P&Z meeting. McGregor said he favored it because it would treat the state equally with all other applicants.

The P&Z is tentatively scheduled to consider the new proposal in March.

Another possible way to prevent mining in the area came from Brian McCoy whose firm owns property adjacent to the state’s property. He suggested the board of county commissioners consider purchasing the land. He estimated that would cost $3 million.

Because the land is part of the state school endowment, the State Land Board claims that mining in Ohio Gulch could raise $2.25 million for schools over the next decade.


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