Friday, February 16, 2007

County perfecting Mountain Overlay District

New detailed maps could further clarify boundaries

Express Staff Writer

Tom Bowman

In an ongoing effort to clarify what does and doesn't lie in Blaine County's Mountain Overlay District, the county is considering purchasing more detailed topographical maps from local engineering firm Benchmark Associates.

The Mountain Overlay District includes all land exceeding 25 percent slope. In order to preserve scenic and aesthetic values, no building is permitted in the District. Preventing erosion, protecting water quality and ensuring public safety are also goals of the district, which was first formed in 1977.

According to a draft ordinance, people who participated in the creation of the district have testified that it was supposed to include a map, "but there was no technological mechanism available at the time for mapping the district fairly and evenly across the county."

According to Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman the new maps, estimated to cost $10,000, would be highly detailed with 4-foot contour intervals. Recently created maps are less detailed with 10-foot contour intervals, leaving room for differing interpretations.

"The way it is now today is it takes staff determination of where the Mountain Overlay District line is," Bowman said.

He added that the new maps, if the county decides to purchase them, will clarify and simplify the district and will relieve the county from conducting costly on-site surveys.

"It will be better for (county) staff and the public, too," Bowman said.

Bowman stressed that the county does not have any intention of changing the district's boundaries.

"Our intent is not to include any more or exclude any more," Bowman said. "We don't want to make it any more restrictive or less restrictive. We want to have a line on the map so people can look at it on their own."

Bowman said the process of clarifying the district emerged over fears that Proposition 2, a contentious property rights bill posed to voters in November, would pass in Idaho. But the measured was killed and "now that that pressure is off, we have the luxury of time to make it as perfect as possible."

County staff will review the prospect of purchasing the new maps from Benchmark Associates and issue a recommendation to the county commission in the coming weeks.

The next public meeting to review the district has yet to be set, but Bowman said it will likely be held in the next five or six weeks.

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