Friday, May 26, 2006

Commission resumes review of 2025 plan

Host of public hearings slated for next couple weeks


By STEVE BENSON
Express Staff Writer

Future growth in Blaine County, and how to deal with it, continues to be the focus of the county commission, which launched its review of four ordinances central to the 2025 planning process Thursday night and held a second hearing today.

The commissioners will continue their review with additional hearings this morning and next week.

The first four zoning ordinances, which the county's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended for approval with a series of revisions in April, could result in a massive downzone of county lands.

Several people have complained that the proposed downzones are unfair because they see them as being too severe and, in turn, would reduce property values. Many have warned the county that it will be hammered with lawsuits.

On the other side, many citizens feel the ordinances—designed to limit development in remote, agricultural and environmentally sensitive areas in the county while focusing it in and near the cities—are essential to preserving the county's natural resources and quality of life. They also believe that the ordinances gel with what the majority of the community wants to see—based on numerous public outreach campaigns offered by the county and Clarion Associates, a national land use and real estate consulting firm, over the past year.

A split has also occurred in the agricultural community, with some farmers and ranchers claiming that their reduced ability to subdivide would devalue their land and eliminate their retirement funds.

Other farmers and ranchers feel the ordinances would actually cause their property values to increase over time since whole properties are more valuable than those fractured by subdivisions. Property values in the agricultural areas of the county would decrease as soon as subdivisions begin popping up, they maintain.

The Blaine County 2025 planning process was sparked in January 2005 when the county commissioners enacted a moratorium on subdivisions in order to develop a strategy to address future growth and development.

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Hearing Schedule

· Friday, May 26, 8 a.m. Old County Courthouse

· Tuesday, May 30, 2 p.m. Old County Courthouse
(Proposed end of written comment)

· Wednesday, May 31, 6:30 p.m. Old County Courthouse

· Thursday, June 1, 8:30 a.m. Old County Courthouse

· Thursday, June 8, 6:30 p.m. Old County Courthouse
(Proposed end of oral comment)




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