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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 15 - 21, 2003


Picabo rezone proposal moves ahead

Goal is to separate development from ranching operations

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commissioners last week gave tentative support to a plan to move future residential development out of the center of Picabo to its eastern end.

The plan was put forth about a year and a half ago by Nick Purdy, whose Picabo Livestock Co. owns much of the land in the hamlet southeast of Bellevue. Purdy has applied for a rezone to change 16 acres of residential-zoned land near the town’s center to agricultural use, and 51 acres of land zoned for agriculture and light industrial at the east end, just south of Highway 20, to residential use.

Purdy’s goal is to direct development away from his ranching operations near the center of town. Reducing conflicts there, he says, would make for more pleasant living for future residents and help him keep the ranch going.

"All kinds of problems have never been solved since the land was platted in 1917," he said during the meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 8. "What I propose to do here is to clean up a lot of loose ends."

Purdy’s plans also include development of an 18-lot subdivision on the newly zoned residential property. Though he submitted the rezone and subdivision applications simultaneously, the county is ruling on the rezone first.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the application, with minor changes, last May. The commissioners approved most of the P&Z’s findings, but minor changes and an unresolved issue required the scheduling of a second meeting on the subject for Nov. 3.

With Commissioner Mary Ann Mix dissenting, the commissioners voted to change the proposed R-5 zone to R-2.5 in the western half of the proposed residential area. Commissioner Dennis Wright said he thought the change would allow more flexibility in drawing lot lines around the small wetlands there.

Several Picabo residents attending the meeting expressed approval of Purdy’s plans, but opposed that change.

"I really don’t want to see any more development there, ever, ever," said Diane James. "People who moved there did so because we like the open spaces."

Rebecca Tischner said denser development should be directed to the county’s larger towns. She said the area around Picabo should be maintained to provide habitat for the numerous wild animals there.

A question also arose regarding the privately owned airstrip on the north side of Highway 20. Though it was not part of Purdy’s proposal, the P&Z recommended that a 30-acre parcel north of the airstrip be rezoned from R-1 to R-5. However, Mix pointed out that development there might be affected by the county’s Airport Vicinity Overlay District, which prohibits building in a "primary safety zone," consisting of a flared strip on each side of the runway. The commissioners postponed a decision on that issue until the November meeting, when a map of the area could be presented with the overlay district included.

In an interview, Wright said the meeting was made smoother and easier by previous work on the application.

"I thought the P&Z did a hell of a good job with this," he said.



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