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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 10 - 16, 2003


River-front protection all but assured

Griffin Ranch approval nets
$75,000 for easement

"We’re excited to be able to help with the protection of a prime piece of land along the Big Wood for the public’s benefit."

SARAH MICHAEL, Blaine County Commissioner

Express Staff Writer

Permanent protection for a 13-acre river-front property was all but assured last week when the Blaine County Commission decided to let a developer trade $75,000 for the ability to develop at slightly higher densities.

In unanimously approving the Griffin Ranch planned unit development on Dec. 1, the Blaine County Commission initiated the county’s first transfer of development rights (TDR) project and helped procure money for the protection of the largest undeveloped river-front property in Bellevue.

The money will be given to the city of Bellevue for the acquisition of the 12.57-acre Howard property, located along the city’s western border on the Big Wood River.

"We’re excited to be able to help with the protection of a prime piece of land along the Big Wood for the public’s benefit," said Blaine County Commissioner Sarah Michael.

The $75,000 was part of a density transfer deal that provided developer Jim Griffin with two additional developable lots in the second phase of his Griffin Ranch subdivision, south of Bellevue. In exchange for the density increase, Griffin agreed to give the county money for the purchase of development rights on the Howard property.

The TDR agreement is the first of its kind in Blaine County.

According to its advocates, the TDR program gives communities a tool to steer development away from environmentally sensitive land to areas more suitable for traditional development.

"It respects private property rights by asking developers to purchase the development rights from land the community wants to see remain undeveloped in exchange for increased density in another location," according to the Wood River Land Trust.

Scott Boettger, executive director of the Land Trust, has been working with citizens and government officials for several years to help implement the TDR program and to protect the Howard property.

"TDRs seek to strike a balance between accommodating future growth needs while offering a way to protect open space, wildlife habitat and recreational areas important to our quality of life," he said. "Using TDRs to protect places like the Howard property is a good example of how this concept and a cooperative effort between jurisdictions can work."

For a year, the Wood River Land Trust, the city of Bellevue and a group of local citizens have worked to raise $330,000 to buy and maintain the river-front property, which the city will own as a preserve.

With the $75,000 allocation from Blaine County, the group has reached its goal.

"It’s a done deal," Boettger said. "We’re just waiting for the ‘is’ to be dotted and the ‘ts’ to be crossed."

The Land Trust views the property as a key element of a larger plan to protect a corridor of riparian areas along the Big Wood River from Hailey downstream to Bellevue.



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