Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Old county lots not subject to new rules

Building setbacks in riparian areas will only apply to new subdivisions

Express Staff Writer

Owners of existing lots in Blaine County's riparian areas will be exempt from new building setback regulations—currently under review by the county's Planning and Zoning Commission—if they're eventually approved.

Several people strongly objected to the setbacks, which are proposed at 200 feet along the Big Wood River and other major streams, during the first several public hearings. Many stressed that the new setbacks would eliminate the possibility of building on their lots.

According to a footnote in the floodplain and riparian setback district ordinance, the P&Z "heard voluminous public comment" regarding the setbacks. Many complained that the regulations were overly restrictive and unfair, especially since several undeveloped lots are adjacent to lots that already contain homes built within 100 feet of major streams.

The current building setback along the Big Wood River is 75 feet.

After several hearings, the P&Z agreed to grandfather existing lots. Furthermore, existing homes within 200 feet of major streams can be expanded as long as the additions protrude away from the river and do not add to the nonconformity.

All new lots created by subdivisions will be forced to comply with the new setbacks if they are eventually approved by the Blaine County Commission. Setbacks along all other streams in the county will be extended to 100 feet.

The P&Z will revisit the ordinance and nail down its final recommendations during a public hearing Aug. 24 at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey. An ordinance that proposes to downzone all of the county's public lands to one unit of development per 160 acres in the event of a future land sale will also be reviewed Aug. 24. A third ordinance designed to rezone county land based on its importance to wildlife will be reviewed at a later date.

All three ordinances are attached to the Blaine County 2025 plan, which aims to limit future development potential in the county's rural and environmentally sensitive areas. The first four ordinances have already been approved by the county commissioners and are now law.

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