Friday, April 28, 2006

County tackles affordable housing requirements

Review of inclusionary housing ordinance begins Wednesday

Express Staff Writer

Community housing will return to the spotlight next week as the Blaine County Commission begins review of an affordable housing ordinance that could permanently change the face of development in the unincorporated areas of the county.

Drafted by Will Collins, a planning consultant from Jackson, Wyo., the ordinance was designed to require all future subdivisions in the county to include 20 percent affordable housing.

However, the county Planning and Zoning Commission, which recommended the ordinance for approval on Feb. 23, decided to lower that requirement to 15 percent.

P&Z Commissioner Don Nurge felt the 20 percent requirement would place too much of a burden on developers and cause already high home prices to escalate further.

"I see it as the cities should be taking more of an aggressive approach than the county," Nurge said in February.

The lack of affordable housing—there are currently less than 60 deed-restricted affordable housing units in the entire county—was one of six major issues the county commissioners wanted to tackle during the moratorium on subdivisions that was enacted in January 2005. Regional planning, service costs, water supply and quality, rural development, and comprehensive plan revisions are the other issues the county wants to address by the time the moratorium expires in July.

If the ordinance is approved by the county commissioners, developers will be given four options to fulfill the affordable housing requirement:

· The applicant builds community housing on the site of the subdivision.

· The applicant builds community housing off the site of the subdivision.

· The applicant conveys land for community housing.

· The applicant pays a fee-in lieu of providing community housing.

The cities of Sun Valley and Hailey have already adopted similar "inclusionary" affordable housing ordinances—Sun Valley requires 15 percent, Hailey 20 percent. Ketchum has an incentive-based program that allows for increased density in developments that include affordable housing. Bellevue and Carey are exploring similar actions.

The county P&Z passed the ordinance unanimously on the condition that county commissioners address concerns regarding lot sizes, placement and clustering in agricultural zones.


Housing Meetings

Blaine County commissioners will host a public review of an inclusionary housing ordinance Wednesday, May 3, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. The review will continue Thursday, May 4, from 9 a.m. to noon at the same location.

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