Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cove Springs plan heads to county P&Z

Fish and Game expresses concerns about wildlife impacts


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

A vast new development planned south of Bellevue is heading for its first round of official public review.

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing Thursday, Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the old County Courthouse in Hailey to review a proposal by Cove Springs Development Inc. to build 338 homes on a 4,600 acre ranch property east of Gannett Road.

"We are delighted that the hearing process will begin," said Cynthia Miley, vice president of Cove Springs Development. "We've been working on Cove Springs for almost three years. Our goal is to create a place for a socio-economically diverse group of people to live and play while protecting the view corridors, agricultural land, water and wildlife habitats."

The proposed project would cover 600 of the 4,600 acres with 338 homes, a neighborhood services center, fire station, equestrian facilities and 4,000 acres of open space. The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality has already permitted a bioreactor sewage treatment system for the project. The plant would be in compliance with a sustainable and ecologically sensitive covenants planned for the development.

According to county planner Stephanie Webster, the development proposal is exempt from the 2005 moratorium and stricter ordinances imposed in July 2006.

"This is a very extensive project," she said. "The county will review how it fits into regional issues such as traffic impact along Gannett Road and the level of density for that area."

The 338 proposed lots range from 7,200 square feet to 4.4 acres in size, with two ranch lots ranging from 152 acres to 3,843 acres in size. The number of deed-restricted affordable homes to be interspersed within the development will be discussed at the Oct. 26 meeting.

According to a memo sent to the P&Z by David Parrish of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Cove Springs will face opposition in its current form due to wildlife impacts in that area. Sage grouse, pygmy rabbits and deer and elk that winter in the project area could suffer, he said.

The development is surrounded by mountains and 11,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management grazing land.

"Given the multitude of wildlife impacts that will be negatively impacted by the current proposal, we recommend evaluating alternatives to shift development to agricultural lands paralleling Gannett Road," Parrish said in the memo. "Relocating the development footprint will prevent further loss and fragmentation of native plant communities and ensure continued wildlife use of important habitats throughout the area."




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