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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 4 - 10, 2002


County requests affordable unit for new subdivision approval

Express Staff Writer

In what could be a precedent-setting move, the Blaine County Commissioners on Thursday told an applicant for a proposed subdivision that he should provide a unit of affordable housing on the property.

John Scherer and Charlie Holt, operating as Mid Valley Ventures, want to subdivide their 16-acre parcel at the corner of Highway 75 and Deer Creek Road into 11 lots. The planning and zoning commission recommended approval of the Deer Valley Farms Subdivision #2 at the conclusion of a public hearing in July. A decision was scheduled to be made by the board of commissioners Thursday.

However, a proposed road that would loop through the subdivision to the adjacent Little Acres subdivision remains a sore spot with residents there, who fear an increase in traffic on what is now a dead-end road.

Minutes of a commissioners’ meeting on Jan. 22 indicate that the board approved a split of a larger property that includes the proposed subdivision on the condition that the lot through which the proposed loop road connects to Little Acres be excluded from it. However, subsequent plans presented by Galena Engineering have continued to show that lot and the loop road as originally proposed.

"We just feel like there is a sort of bait-and-switch thing going on here," said Little Acres resident Adam Tanous.

Commissioner Dennis Wright, who made the motion on Jan. 22 to split the property and exclude the one lot, declined to comment on the subject while it remains under consideration.

Continuing controversy on the subject at Thursday’s meeting helped prompt the commissioners to postpone the application to an as-yet-unscheduled second meeting. Before the meeting adjourned, however, discussion among the commissioners indicated agreement with the neighbors’ objections.

Raising another issue that has more impact on the county as a whole, Commissioner Sarah Michael told the applicants that she would like to see a "community housing" unit built on part of a lot now reserved for a small communal horse barn and corral. She said she based her request on a need to mitigate the additional demand on local housing that will be created by the employees required to maintain the houses built in the subdivision. Details of the house, she said, would be worked out with the Blaine County Housing Authority.

In a subsequent interview, Michael said she believes such a request can be made legally binding under the county’s subdivision ordinance.

"You have to consider the impact on public infrastructures," she said.

The best way to address the impact on housing, she contended, is to build it on the property where employees will be working.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves said in an interview that he would have to research the subject before offering an opinion on whether the county could enforce such a measure.

Citizens for Smart Growth Executive Director Anjie Saunders called Michael’s request "a step in the right direction," saying an affordable housing unit should be required in every new subdivision over a certain size.



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