P&Z rejects Ohio Gulch rezone
By TRAVIS PURSER
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
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.