Friday, January 20, 2006

City leaders discuss 2025 with county

More attention to be paid to cities' concerns

Express Staff Writer

Representatives from Blaine County's five cities sat down Wednesday evening with county planners and commissioners to discuss how municipalities will fit into the county's growth planning mission titled "Blaine County 2025: Where and How will we Grow?"

In general, Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorsen, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant looked to the relatively casual meeting as an opportunity both to thank the county for taking a stab at regional planning and as a forum to raise concerns about how county plans will impact cities.

For example, McBryant said if the county is going to look at rezoning lands on the boundaries of cities, she for one would like to see neighboring unincorporated property zoned R5. Carey Planning and Zoning Administrator Sara Mecham reiterated that her city leaders are concerned about how county plans will impact the city's density, surrounding agricultural zones and area of city impact (ACI).

Mecham said Mayor Rick Baird hopes discussions about the city's ACI will be back on the table. McBryant said the county's planning campaign might be an opportunity to finally nail down agreements with the county.

The public's top priorities that have shaken out of the outreach campaign include an interest in protecting sensitive lands, which have long been protected by keeping development off hillsides and commercial development off Highway 75. Regional planning and developing regional transportation and housing closer to the workplace are also top priorities. Finally, community members who participated in surveys about growth have indicated a preference to focus development in and around cities. Consideration of a fourth scenario to make room for a new city in the county has also remained on the table.

McBryant shared concerns about the county's apparent lack of familiarity with Hailey's campaign, completed over a year ago, where citizens attended 18 publicly noticed meetings to give their feedback on how the county seat should grow. Sun Valley City Councilman Nils Ribi asked for clarification that the county was still looking to protect sensitive lands on city borders with the county.

County planner Jeffrey Adams, who reiterated the county's planning efforts at the meeting, said that that was indeed the case. He said the county is very busy and still does need to become more familiar with plans the City of Hailey have already put in motion with the cities comprehensive plan.

Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles said his community would like to see the county steer clear of supporting development of a new city. However, others recommended that a new city be kept on the table and if considered that it be considered as a full city with an appropriate balance of residential, commercial and municipal infrastructure.

County Commission Chairwoman Sarah Michael, with the help of Commissioner Dennis Wright, reiterated concerns each city shared, such as interest in allowing pockets of light industrial development in areas that would not disrupt the character of "eclectic" neighborhoods like Board Ranch, as Ketchum City Councilman Ron Parsons pointed out. Wright said, however, if city leaders could identify viable commercial areas for development, ideas should be brought before the county for review.

Michael said that as the county moves forward with solidifying planning goals the county needs to get more city feedback. She added that the county's preferred growth scenario will be presented Feb. 1 at the Community Campus in Hailey at which time more city feedback will be expected.

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