Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cove Springs slips back with P&Z recommendation

Impacts on wildlife, agriculture and hillsides cited as too much

Express Staff Writer

In a significant turn of events Thursday, the six-member Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend denial of the application for the proposed 338-unit Cove Springs subdivision in the Bellevue Triangle.

In making its recommendation April 19 to the Blaine County Commission for the application's denial, the P&Z cited the development's potential impacts to wildlife, agricultural uses and surrounding hillsides as justification.

The commissioners' motion—made after nearly five hours of concentrated deliberation—now sends the Cove Springs subdivision application on to the County Commission for an entirely new set of public hearings, official deliberations, and, ultimately, a final decision.

In a message submitted to the Idaho Mountain Express on Friday, Cynthia Miley, vice president of Cove Springs Development Inc., expressed disappointment with the P&Z's recommendation against the development.

"We recognize that growth is going to continue in Blaine County, and this is the time to set a precedent with a place like Cove Springs that is community—and conservation—oriented," Miley wrote. "We look forward to our review with the county commissioners."

The proposed Cove Springs subdivision would be located five miles southeast of Bellevue, and would be capable of supporting more than 1,000 residents. The subdivision's footprint would cover 600 acres of the 4,630-acre Cove Ranch.

As part of its deliberation into the Cove Springs planned unit development application, the P&Z was required to make a finding as to whether the housing development contained superior design aspects.

The requirement, a part of all county PUD applications, stipulates that developments must contain additional design features above and beyond those normally required for non-PUD applications.

For providing those beneficial features, developers can be granted waivers from county standards such as lot size and width, building setbacks, road widths and density requirements.

In its review of the superior design standards section, the P&Z generally agreed that the proposed Cove Springs subdivision did not meet the additional requirements and therefore should not be granted any development waivers.

Commissioner Doug Werth, while lauding the developers' proposal to set aside significant farmland near Gannett Road as permanent open space, said that alone wasn't enough to meet the superior design requirements.

"It does so at the expense of other significant factors," Werth said.

Explaining, he noted the developers' plans to place the subdivision's footprint well into the undeveloped upper cove for which the property is named.

Werth said that area is the least suitable for development.

In another significant development Thursday, the P&Z determined a number of lots proposed for Cove Springs are shown to fall inside the mountain overlay district.

More than enough land is available to place those lots away from protected hillside locations, Commissioner Judy Harrison said.

"We cannot plat new lots in the mountain overlay district," Harrison said.

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