The owner of a proposed four-lot subdivision along East Fork Road has accused Blaine County of "vigilante justice" for its application of the county's Mountain Overlay District to his property.
Local residents Ed Terrazas and Jackie Weseloh are seeking to create the NoKaOi subdivision on 115 acres of land along the north side of East Fork Road, 1.3 miles from state Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey. The property is adjacent to a parcel owned by Michael Rollins, whose building plans have also sparked controversy due to their hillside location.
During a public hearing Wednesday, Terrazas and Weseloh urged county commissioners to reject a recommendation of denial for the project issued by the county Planning and Zoning Commission in April. Due to time constraints, commissioners took no action on the application and postponed the matter to July 26.
The P&Z had based its recommendation on a conclusion that two of the proposed four lots would fall within the Mountain Overlay District. County ordinance permits construction within the district when no other building site is available, but prohibits new subdivisions that would create building sites there.
The Mountain Overlay District has no specified geographic area, but applies to all land of more than a 25 percent slope or of more than a 15 percent slope if it is visible from Highway 75.
In his presentation, Terrazas said that before he submitted his subdivision application, county Planning Director Linda Haavik had told him his property was on a bench and therefore not included in the Mountain Overlay District. Terrazas contended that the P&Z had based its recommendation solely on public comment, "after the property below us was carved up on a hillside," and not on an accurate reading of county ordinances.
"I realize there's a lot of emotion involved in land development," he said. "I just think we got caught up in the fervor of the moment and I think the P&Z could have done a little better job at it."
Terrazas acknowledged that his property slopes at more than 15 percent, but said it should be classified as a bench or terrace under descriptions set forth in the county Comprehensive Plan, which refers to the "alluvial soils" present in such landforms. Terrazas said soil data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Survey of Blaine County indicate the predominance of such soils on his property.
County zoning code defines "bench" as a "level step created by the former flood deposits of a river," but does not specifically exclude them from the Mountain Overlay District.
Terrazas said he and Weseloh had made an effort to create a low-impact project by clustering proposed development on relatively flat areas and by working with the BLM to maintain public access through it.
"We think we've done an awfully good job on the project," he said.
Most of the six people who offered testimony agreed that the project has its merits, but also expressed concerns. Aaron Domini, a planner with Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth, said the nonprofit group supports the P&Z's decision that the property lies within the Mountain Overlay District and its recommendation for denial.