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For the week of May 1 - 7, 2002


Big changes proposed for Picabo

Resort-generated housing demand spreading south

Express Staff Writer

Presented as a blueprint for Picabo’s future, a plan to rezone almost half the town met with cautious approval from about a dozen of its residents during a public hearing Thursday.

A view looking east from downtown Picabo shows the strip of land on which Nick Purdy would like to develop a residential subdivision. Four potato-storage buildings are visible at the parcel’s east end. Express photo by Greg Moore

The proposal is a sign that resort-generated housing demand is spreading toward the tiny, south-county agricultural community.

Fourth-generation rancher Nick Purdy, whose Picabo Livestock Co. owns the land in question, presented the proposal before the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.

Purdy would like to move future residential development to the east end of town, away from his ranching operations near Picabo’s center. He proposes to rezone 16 acres of currently residential-zoned land near the town’s center to agricultural use, and 51 acres of land currently zoned for agriculture at the east end to residential use. The proposed R-5 residential area would be in a narrow strip of land abutting the south side of U.S. Highway 20.

The culmination of the rezone would be development of a proposed 11-lot Picabo Hills subdivision, seven of whose lots would be put up for sale. Purdy said he envisions that happening in four to five years.

Purdy acknowledged that he hopes to profit from that development, pointing out that ranching alone is no longer enough to sustain the property, but said that is not his only motivation.

"I think we can make Picabo a nice place to live and benefit the county," he told P&Z commissioners. "I see nothing but conflict coming between the residences and the ranches if it continues to develop as planned."

Picabo resident Mike Riedel spoke in support of Purdy’s proposal, telling commissioners the P&Z had found it difficult to decide previous applications for changes to Picabo properties since the town has no real plan.

"This is a great opportunity to you," Riedel said. "It is in reality a city plan. Please do some city planning for Picabo."

Resident Dave Glasscock said he saw some good ideas in the proposal, but pointed out that it would turn much more agricultural land into residential use than vice versa.

"I think it’s a really bad precedent to start rezoning agricultural lands residential," he said.

The proposal would, however, reduce the number of lots on the properties from 84 to 21, thereby reducing permitted density.

Glasscock’s wife, Virginia, questioned whether residential development is appropriate for the narrow east-end parcel, given the amount of agricultural truck traffic in the area and the location of potato-storage buildings at its eastern end. In an interview, Purdy said potatoes are transported to the storage buildings for about a month in the fall and a month in the spring.

An additional part of Purdy’s proposal is to rezone an 11-acre parcel on the corner of First and David streets, south of the proposed subdivision, from agricultural to residential. He said the triangular-shaped parcel is out of reach of the radial sprinkler there, and therefore unsuitable for agriculture. The parcel is part of a 3,400-acre open-space easement Purdy donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1996.

Mark Davidson, Silver Creek Preserve manger, said The Nature Conservancy plans to hold Purdy to the easement’s terms, which forbid subdivision. However, Purdy said he is willing to trade an easement on another parcel that the conservation group would probably find more attractive.

Purdy has also applied to amend the southern third of the Picabo townsite, zoned R--.4, to create 12 lots where there are now 67. The residential-zoned parcels for which he has applied to be rezoned agricultural are included in that property. In an interview, Purdy said he doesn’t expect to begin selling any of those lots for at least 10 years.

Purdy told the commissioners that his proposal is "probably the most complex application you’ve had before the county for quite some time." Planning staff member David Odom said between six and 10 public hearings will be required to get through all the decisions involved. The rezone applications will be determined first, followed by the proposed subdivision.

In a brief historical presentation, Purdy’s father, Bud Purdy, said his grandfather came to the area in 1883 to help build the railroad from Shoshone to Hailey. He liked the area and created a 640-acre homestead.

Bud Purdy said the name "Picabo" comes from a word in a Minnesota Indian tribe language meaning "shining water." It was applied by one of the railroad workers, a Minnesota resident, after he saw Silver Creek.

Nick Purdy said the family’s long history in Picabo makes them different from normal developers. Referring to people who had raised objections to his proposal, he said, "We’ll be there when they’re gone."


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.