County investigates Purdy cabin size
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Blaine County zoning administrator Deborah Vignes says the
planning department will investigate allegations that a house built on
Silver Creek land protected by a conservation easement is larger than
approved, and is being operated not as a rental business as intended but
as a private residence.
In a related decision, the planning department has denied
rancher Nick Purdy’s request to extend expired deadlines to gain permits
for building two more houses in the area.
That denial means Purdy would have to reapply to the
county to build the remaining houses, something the Blaine County Citizens
for Smart Growth advocacy group applauds because, group attorney Doug
Werth said, it would allow the public to determine whether Purdy’s
project is a "sham" or a "bona fide agricultural
In 1998, The Nature Conservancy and the Blaine County
Board of Commissioners agreed to allow Purdy to build three rental cabins
on the protected property as a way for Purdy to earn money and as a public
The plan caused a firestorm of controversy because it
meant allowing additional development on property permanently protected
from development by an easement Purdy had already entered into.
Now, with one house built at 3,782 square feet and valued
at $305,000, Purdy and The Nature Conservancy are negotiating ways to
resolve issues around the house being larger and taller than approved.
Additionally, Smart Growth founder Steve Wolper alleges
that the house was actually built by George Argyros as a private
residence, an important distinction that could result in a de facto
subdivision of the land.
Wolper accuses Purdy of misrepresenting his plans to the
county, making them out to be less than they really were to gain the
county’s approval. Wolper says the issue is a good example of why the
planning department needs an enforcement officer to inspect construction.
To prove that the completed house is indeed a rental
cabin, Purdy submitted a guest list to the county. But in a three-page,
April 10 letter to Purdy, Vignes states that in the future, Purdy must
provide the county with certificates signed by the guests.
In her letter, Vignes states only that the planning
department will "respond accordingly" if the investigation
proves the allegations to be true.