Friday, June 3, 2005

East Fork dispute delays construction of dream home

Appeal cites county's mountain overlay zoning restrictions

Express Staff Writer

For 16-year Wood River Valley resident Michael Rollins, the process of building a dream home in East Fork canyon has not yet been a dream come true.

A number of Rollins' future neighbors have appealed a county decision that allows him to build a home on a bench about 100 feet above East Fork Road. More specifically, the Blaine County Commission is now considering whether to reverse a staff decision that Rollins' lot is not subject to the restrictions of the county's mountain overlay zoning district.

If commissioners decide the lot should be in the mountain overlay zone, Rollins may have to reclaim a driveway he excavated in December and then draw up plans to build his home into the hillside at the elevation of East Fork Road.

Despite the complications, Rollins is trying to maintain a cup-half-full perspective. He makes a living teaching stress management and administering acupuncture, chi massage and a number of other holistic health methods, and he said he practices what he preaches.

"It's already a challenge to build a house without having any curves thrown at you," he said. "It's important that I don't make this experience of building our home a negative one."

In order to take the high road, Rollins said he had to find his center and look for balance. So far, he feels good about his efforts, and he said he hopes his disgruntled neighbors will be impressed with the quality of the new home and the surrounding property when it is complete.

What's more, not all of his potential new neighbors are unhappy. Several have written letters to the Blaine County Commission supporting the new home.

"This is my first home, my dream home," Rollins said. "You get to a point where you want to keep everybody happy, and you can't. I've always been a good neighbor, and I want to be a good neighbor."

The point when some of Rollins' new neighbors stopped being happy was when, in December, he graded a driveway up the steep slope facing East Fork Road to access a relatively flat building site on the bench above. Some of the area residents began referring to Rollins' excavation as an "open pit mine."

But Rollins was clear that the scarred hillside will be planted with native vegetation, including sagebrush and forbs. He said he does not plan to irrigate the earth there.

Brian Poster, who lives to the east of Rollins' property, filed the appeal.

"I don't dispute that he has a right to have a home there, but he has to play within the rules," Poster said after a meeting last week. "I have an appeal against a county decision. I'm not fighting Rollins."

Rollins, a native of Massachusetts, moved to the Wood River Valley in December of 1989 to spend a year skiing and living the mountain-town lifestyle. Like many local residents, he found a niche and is still here. He is a wellness practitioner based in Ketchum.

He said he is excited to show people how good his East Fork property can look.

"I take a lot of pride in what I do," he said. "I want it to look nice up there, and I'll do everything I can to make sure it does."

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