Friday, October 29, 2004

Public may get break on state land deals

Legislation to discount prices

Express Staff Writer

Local government bodies seeking to buy or lease land owned by the Idaho Transportation Department may get a break on prices if legislation is proposed and approved by Idaho lawmakers at the next legislative session.

ITD confirmed Thursday that the proposed bill has been drawn up, but not yet sponsored by any legislators.

One of the early beneficiaries of such a law might be the City of Bellevue, which has had its eye on a 2.5-acre tract of land at the intersection of State Highway 75 and Gannett Road.

But ITD?s present mandated pricing plan--100 percent of ?fair market? values--has put the $500,000 to $600,000 parcel out of reach of Bellevue.

First inkling that a law was in the works was mentioned Thursday at a regular meeting of the Blaine County Trans-portation Committee by Devin Rigby, district engineer ITD, when Bellevue City Councilwoman Tammy Schofield asked about acquiring the land at a reduced price.

Schofield explained after the meeting that if Bellevue could acquire the land, it would be used for a combination community center and gateway visitors center, which also could receive state financial assistance. She said Bellevue has its eye on an additional acre nearby that could be used for park-and-ride and a bus stop.

A spokesman for ITD, Jeff Stratton, said the proposed law would allow the department to negotiate a price up to but not to exceed 100 percent of ?fair market? value, presumably only a fraction of market value.

In other business covered at the committee meeting in Hailey:

 District engineer Rigby said that four days of good weather and moderate temperatures would allow completion of paving of a stretch of Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum that has caused major traffic headaches.

 County Commissioner Sarah Michael reported that a citizens group is committed to raising $30,000 for two movable message boards that would be placed alongside Highway 75 to alert motorists to the presence of deer and elk crossing the road.

 Rigby said that an ITD traffic study found no justification now for a traffic signal at the intersection of Ohio Gulch and Highway 75 between Hailey and Ketchum.

 Charles Carnohan, ITD environmental impact statement program manager for the Highway 75 improvement project, said the long-awaited EIS is being studied by the Federal Highway Administration and may be approved for public review this winter. Carnohan said a major conflict still must be resolved--Blaine County?s prohibition on noise walls alongside Highway 75 and ITD?s proposal for noise buffers to shield nearby residents from sounds of traffic.

 To compensate for damage or removal of 3 acres of wetlands near the intersection of Highway 75 and U.S. 20 in the improvement project, 7 acres of wetlands north of Ketchum near Boulder Flats may be developed, including realign-ment of some of the road.

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