Wednesday, November 2, 2005

County growth study gathers steam

Effort directed at developing a shared vision


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

An initiative put forth by the Blaine County Commission to determine how residents would like to see the county grow is gathering steam. County planners have begun to visit various cities, businesses and organizations throughout the region to present the project and encourage public comment.

The community-involved initiative—called "Blaine County 2025, Where and How Will We Grow?"—is described as an effort to develop a shared vision for the county's sustainable growth.

Organizers of the effort visited a Bellevue City Council meeting Thursday, Oct. 27. After providing council members and city residents with a brief presentation, county planners asked those in attendance to fill out a questionnaire concerning their vision for future growth.

Blaine County has scheduled a number of similar "road show" meetings over the next two months. The meetings began on Monday, Oct. 24, in Hailey, and will likely continue through mid-December.

Public feedback gathered during the meetings will be used by county planners to get a more complete picture of how residents want Blaine County growth to take shape over the next 20 years. Specifically, county planners will use the public feedback to develop a number of possible approaches to guide future growth, including higher-density cities, cluster development or new towns.

By July 2006, Blaine County planners hope to combine the entire range of responses elicited from the meetings to come up with a preferred alternative for managing growth. Over the long term, the county might implement new land-use regulations based on the results of the effort.

Blaine County 2025 organizers say what the county looks like in the future is in the hands of its citizens. Recent growth projections are the basis for the effort, they say.

"It is estimated that 12,000-plus people will be moving to Blaine County in the next 20 years," said Blaine County Commission Chair Sarah Michael.

Community input will help Blaine County make proactive decisions about where those new residents might live and how the county should grow, Michael said.

Blaine County 2025 began in July with the selection of Colorado planning firm Clarion Associates. The firm will use its planning expertise to help develop and evaluate multiple scenarios for accommodating growth and implementing a plan for Blaine County's future.

Joining the effort in September was Colorado- and Vermont-based Orton Family Foundation, a nonprofit land-use planning organization. The foundation brings "Community Viz"—its 3-D visualization software—to the effort.

Community Viz provides GIS-based analysis and real-world 3-D modeling to allow people to more easily envision land-use alternatives and understand their potential impacts.

In addition to the number of meetings planned, information on the Blaine County 2025 effort will also be available at a variety of other settings, including booths at local stores and schools.

"We want everybody to have their say," said Blaine County planner Jeffrey Adams.

Blaine County residents need to realize growth is inevitable so they can properly plan for it, Adams said. "People are coming here," he said. "We have to face those facts."

Organizers of Blaine County 2025 have scheduled two large public meetings in Ketchum and Hailey for Nov. 15. At those meetings, possible growth scenarios and the emerging vision for Blaine County will be presented and discussed.

Additional information on the Blaine County 2025 initiative, including upcoming meetings and the locations of information booths, can be found at www.blainecounty2025.org.




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