Friday, June 24, 2005

County upholds appeal over East Fork project

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Commissioners have upheld an appeal over construction of a house on a steep hillside along East Fork Road, north of Hailey.

Reversing a decision by the county Planning Department, the commissioners determined that Michael Rollins' property at 107 East Fork Road lies within the county's Mountain Overlay District. As a result, Rollins will need to obtain a site alteration permit before he can proceed with further construction. A public hearing would be required to consider whether Rollins' building plans comply with the restrictions of the district.

Neighbor Brian Poster had filed the appeal in April over issuance of a building permit for the site, which lies 143 feet above the road. A hearing on the appeal was held May 26.

In a decision issued Thursday, June 23, the commissioners rejected the Planning Department's finding that the property lies outside of the district because the building site is not on a steep slope, but rather on a bench above it. The commissioners determined that the building site does not qualify as a bench because it is not flat enough and was not created by flood deposits.

"I think the commissioners made a very bold decision," Poster's attorney, Fritz Haemmerle, said. "It's not easy to overturn your staff."

The Mountain Overlay District governs construction on steep slopes or on less steep areas above such slopes.

Under the county's zoning code, anyone who wishes to build within the Mountain Overlay District must show that:

· No other reasonable building site exists on the property outside of the district.

· The design and location of buildings will minimize their visibility from roads.

· Buildings will not "skyline."

· All excavations and grading will be re-vegetated.

· Building materials will be of non-reflective materials.

Rollins has already graded and stripped vegetation from a large part of the hillside above East Fork Road, prompting some neighbors to refer to the project as "an open-pit mine." Rollins has stated his intent to re-vegetate the area.

Neither Rollins nor his attorney could be reached for comment. However, before the decision was issued, attorneys for both parties had said they would appeal to district court if the commissioners ruled against their client.

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