Friday, June 17, 2005

Stanley needs CIEDRA land to meet the public's needs

The Central Idaho Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) is creating substantial public discussion on land-use policy in the Sawtooth Basin. As one of four city councilmen in Stanley, I would like to clarify some issues raised by concerned citizens and former lands managers.

The city's interest lies in two parcels that historically were under the city's control in the past. One parcel consists of eight acres on Benner Street that prior to U.S. Forest Service ownership had been laid out as a trailer and camper park (low-cost housing). The second parcel, approximately 65 acres on Valley Creek, lies adjacent to the north city boundary.

Historically, these acres were used for a Forest Service office and USFS housing, stock grazing, public hot springs, and most recently, the community's sewage lagoons.

Acquiring these lands for the city is about families, employee housing, and emergency services. Stanley is facing the same economic impacts that are driving wage earners and public employees from the Wood River Valley and Jackson, Wyo. These families provide the core that sustains our community.

The city of Stanley contains 308 acres. The Idaho Aeronautics Board is the largest landholder, owning over one-third of the city (airport). Stanley is surrounded by private lands locked up from development and public lands (96 percent of Custer County). The community is challenged with supplying medical and fire protection, housing and other services the public demands when traveling, working or living in our valley.

In the past, local residents, half in jest, half serious, spoke of erecting barriers at the county lines to keep people from coming in and impacting our community. We've given up on that idea, but most residents, myself included, do not want our community to change. Regardless, money for trophy homes and land investments continues to roll in, pushing working people from our community.

The last two major wilderness areas created within the United States included ceding public lands to local governments to aid in meeting demands placed on them. In a climate of skyrocketing land values, the city has nearly zero options to access a land base to meet the public's needs.

The former Sawtooth National Recreation Area land managers' characterization of Stanley officials (Mountain Express, June 8) as "shallow thinkers," "short-term economic" opportunists, "regressive," "unprincipled," "financially backwards" and "ethically unconscionable" is unjustified, poorly thought out and mean-spirited. Under some of these same lands managers' tenure, the Stanley-area SNRA addressed their housing needs by creating a sprawling tent, RV and trailer-house zone in a really pristine meadow directly behind the SNRA office at the base of Williams peak that exists today. At least, the city of Stanley is willing to communicate publicly and utilize existing legal structures (CIEDRA bill) to seek solutions to affordable housing. The 65 acres (old sewage lagoons) would ease some of Stanley's employee housing needs. Any restructuring of this parcel will be in compliance with laws governing wetlands, endangered species or other land-use regulations.

People truly interested in the Stanley community and its challenges should show up at city work meetings, emergency medical volunteer meetings, volunteer firemen meetings, school board meetings and bring creative, progressive ideas or solutions.

Charlie Thompson is a Stanley City Council member. These views are his and do not reflect any official policy or position of the City Council.

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