county ruling on Ohio Gulch
State ruled subject
to local zoning laws
Express Staff Writer
In a case
that will affect land-use planning throughout Idaho, a 5th
District Court judge has ruled that Blaine County has the right to
prohibit gravel mining on state land in Ohio Gulch.
arose in May 2000 when the county denied a conditional-use permit to
McStay Construction to mine gravel on a 20-acre parcel of school endowment
land, zoned Agricultural and Residential. The state filed suit, arguing
that its constitutional mandate to manage school endowment land for the
maximum possible financial return trumped the county’s zoning authority.
decision handed down June 12, Judge James May rejected that argument.
that the case is the first time the issue has arisen in Idaho. However, he
stated, courts in other states have upheld the authority of local zoning
laws in similar situations.
court agrees with the Colorado and Utah supreme courts and finds that the
Land Board, in its management of school endowment lands, is generally
subject to reasonable state legislation enacted pursuant to the police
derives its "police power" from Article XII of the Idaho
Constitution, and its specific power to enact zoning laws from the Local
Land Use Planning Act. May noted that the Legislature exempted two
entities from the provisions of that act—the Idaho Transportation Board
and the Public Utilities Commission. Had it wished to exempt the Land
Board, he stated, it would have done so.
state law to grant the Land Board sole authority over state lands, May
stated, "leads to the absurd result of exempting 3,295,415.43 acres
of state land from these police power considerations contrary to the
express intent of the Legislature."
similar to that in Blaine County have arisen in other parts of Idaho.
think it’s going to be a wake-up call for a lot of counties and for the
state Land Board," said Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney Jim
Idaho’s Bonner County, officials faced intransigence from the state when
they attempted to apply county planning ordinances to proposed development
on school endowment land on the east side of Priest Lake. They
unsuccessfully attempted to intervene in the Ohio Gulch suit.
County Commissioner Brian Orr said he expects the ruling, if not
overturned on appeal, to determine the issue there as well.
decision also affects a proposal to build a 100-foot-tall wireless
communications tower on state land atop Della Mountain, west of Hailey.
Under county ordinance, the proposed lessee of the land, Hailey-based
Idaho Tower Co., will have to obtain a conditional-use permit to build the
tower. However, the county’s wireless communications ordinance prohibits
construction of a tower higher than any that exist at the site, and the
Della site already contains a 60-foot tower.
owns more than 1,000 acres of land in Blaine County.
spokesperson for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, said the decision
is still under review and the state has not decided whether to appeal it.