Wednesday, December 13, 2006

East Magic plowing debate snowballs

Express Staff Writer

Photo by Pat Norris Heavy snow buries East Magic Road last winter. Residents of a collection of cabins at East Magic are complaining that the county won?t help plow the road.

Residents of a collection of cabins along the east shore of Magic Reservoir are questioning why the county won't plow a road accessing their small enclave in the winter.

"They can add a million-dollar home to the county plow route, but we just don't count," said Nate Norris, who is leading the charge to secure county plowing on five miles of East Magic Road, which is the only route connecting the cabins to state Highway 75. "If we were wealthy homeowners or rich farmers, they would have no problem plowing our road."

Norris, who owns East Side Magic Resort, which includes a seasonal restaurant, said the residents of East Magic pay county taxes, including ambulance and fire service, "but they won't come down there unless we plow the road on our own."

Norris and his father, Rick Norris, plow the road—22 times during last winter's heavy snows—with their own equipment. The county covers their fuel expenses.

Norris said East Magic—located south of Bellevue—should be considered a legitimate residential area since it provides a much-needed resource for the county: affordable housing.

"The county is spending all of this time and energy on solutions to affordable housing, yet they refuse to spend $2,000 a year to help the guy who is providing affordable housing to 20 people," he said. "If I subdivided my property, part of it would have to be affordable housing, but the county still wouldn't plow the road."

County Commissioner Tom Bowman said East Magic was traditionally established as a fishing village, and the road is recreational in nature. The county does not plow recreational roads.

"People put up little shacks without septic systems and used them in the summer and now people are converting those to year-round residences," Bowman said. "We don't have any intention of making that a year-round, full-service road. The last mile or so is a grade that the fire department can't get down or up in the winter."

Furthermore, Bowman said the cost of plowing the road would not be balanced by taxes.

"That's a small number of residents, relatively speaking," Bowman said. "We're putting more money into that as it is than we are getting."

Norris said he is only asking the county to plow the first four miles of the road and he would plow the final steep and precarious mile on his own. He said that would cost the county between $1,500 and $2,750 a year.

Norris also said he could prove that the county plows other roads that are recreational in nature.

Bowman said he was not aware of any such instances and if the county began plowing East Magic Road it would have to plow every road that is recreational in nature.

"We don't want to set the precedent of plowing roads that are supposed to be seasonal," Bowman said.

Norris said East Side Magic Road is recreational in nature, "but it is also residential and commercial in use."

In a letter to the commissioners, Norris said Blaine County receives money from the state of Idaho to maintain the road "but does not maintain it to the state's definition of a maintained road."

"The county receives $1,600 per mile to maintain the road yet has spent no more than $300 in the last three years of maintenance on the last mile and a half of road," Norris said. "The facts are: East Side Magic Road is used year round by residents, the public, and commercially."

Dale Shappee, supervisor of the county road and bridge department, said the fact is that the road is recreational, and East Magic "is not zoned residential.

"I think this is probably going to be a non-issue in a little bit," Shappee said.

The county is expected to pass a resolution on Thursday, Dec. 14, that would clarify its plowing policies. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. in the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.

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