With more than 60 public comments issued in the first three Blaine County 2025 hearings and dozens more submitted in writing, members of the county Planning and Zoning Commission last Thursday gave citizens a chance to hear where they stand on a set of proposed zoning ordinances.
The seven county P&Z members will host an additional four public hearings—beginning tonight, April 19, at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey at 6:30 p.m.—before issuing a recommendation to the Blaine County Commission in late.
On Thursday, P&Z commissioners' comments were diverse and varied, but the general consensus is that the ordinances as proposed will require revisions.
Commissioner Doug Werth said "we all value the (public's) comments and we listen to them very carefully ... and we should tell the people where we are right now in our minds."
Werth referred to the Bellevue Triangle and Silver Creek area as "the crown jewel of Blaine County" and said protecting the area and the aquifer "is a very important policy goal."
He wondered whether A20 (one unit per 20 acres) lands should be downzoned to A40 or A80 to increase protection.
As far as the TDR (transfer of development rights) program proposed, Werth said it should be pursued "but I'm concerned what is mapped there is not the right thing."
He suggested expanding the TDR program beyond the Bellevue Triangle to the entire county.
"We have to start off with a small sending area and have a larger receiving area," Werth said. He added that sending and receiving areas should not be set in stone at this time to allow for future flexibility.
While Werth feels development should be heavily scrutinized in the county's remote areas, he said Carey needs to be dealt with separately.
"I think development should be encouraged (in Carey)," he said. "It needs to occur so they can stand on their own two feet as a municipality."
Commissioners Judy Harrison, Don Nurge and Sue Orb—who was absent but issued comments through a letter—agreed with several of Werth's comments.
"We have an opportunity now to control the growth coming to this valley," Harrison said. "This is not about stopping growth, but managing growth. I don't believe we can listen to the howls of protest.
"We need to manage growth, and not let it manage us."
Commissioner Jerry Allred disagreed.
Allred, who lives on Gannett-Picabo Road in the Bellevue Triangle, feels the proposed ordinances, particularly the downzoning of A10 lands to RR40 (remote and rural/one unit per 40 acres) are inappropriate.
"The RR40 is a very dramatic downzone and covers a lot of acres in this county," Allred said. "I'm still leaning towards keeping A10 and A20 as they are."
Many citizens have blasted the RR40 donwzone proposal, claiming it would strip their property of its worth because of the reduced subdividing potential.
"This commission needs to think very carefully about property rights," he said.
His comments drew applause from much of the public in attendance.
Commission Chairman Larry Schoen agreed with Allred that A10 lands should remain A10, and that the RR40 downzone could be an "environmental disaster" with "one unit per 40 acres sprawled across the landscape."
He said the TDR program as proposed is a "no growth" policy.
"Everyone needs to be willing to accept TDRs," said Schoen, who owns a farm near Silver Creek and is running for the Blaine County Commission in the south district. "The cities, county and developer need to participate together."
But, most of all, Schoen feels the 2025 ordinances should be founded on "simplicity, clarity and fairness."
He said he's "optimistic" that the commission can reach a consensus and produce a positive result.
"Some people are more concerned about the donwzones and are far less concerned about simplicity, clarity and fairness," Schoen said earlier this week. "It's important that we on the Planning and Zoning Commission not only keep in mind that we are the servants of the entire community but we need to be out there speaking to the people most affected by these changes."
Commissioner Chip Bailey expressed concern that the 2025 review process is evolving too rapidly. Nurge suggested that county planning staff develop a strategy to attack the most pressing ordinances first.
"What I propose tonight is to triage the ordinances before us," Nurge said. "What can be done now, and what should wait."
The planning staff, which includes Tom Bergin and Jeff Adams, said it would develop a triage strategy for tonight's meeting.