Wednesday, June 20, 2007

County starts review of Croy subdivision

Plan includes conservation easement and bike path

Express Staff Writer

Despite receiving high marks for protecting wildlife habitat, a proposed subdivision west of Hailey was sent back to the drawing boards by the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission last week to fix encroachments into the county's Mountain Overlay District.

County Planner Tom Bergin and several members of the P&Z Commission toured the site of the proposed 356-acre Croy Creek Preserve subdivision early last week. The property, located three miles west of Hailey on Croy Creek Road, is owned by Mark and Patsy Nickum. It is bordered on the northeast by Colorado Gulch Road and on the southwest by Croesus Creek Road.

During a meeting Thursday, June 14, at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey, Realtor Jed Gray presented a site master plan and aerial photographs to the P&Z. The plan showed 21 home sites ranging from five to eight acres.

Gray said there would be no landscaping outside the building envelopes and building height restrictions would be stricter than the county's.

"Clustering of the buildings will keep development out of the sensitive areas which the owners would like to protect," Gray said.

The development would straddle a 210-acre stream and wetland area, which has been granted as a conservation easement to the Wood River Land Trust. The easement is a tax-deductible charitable donation that would protect the area indefinitely. Gray said a moose with twins is living in the zone.

Kate Giese, director of conservation at the Wood River Land Trust, spoke favorably of the development plan. She said the land trust had worked with the applicant since the beginning of the design process. She said she had helped form a "constraints" map of the property based on wildlife habitat and migration corridors, sensitive wetlands, riparian areas along Croy Creek and scenic values.

"The constraints map is a tool used to identify which lands are least sensitive and therefore most appropriate for development," Giese said. "This application is refreshing for us because we usually hear from a landowner once and they never come back to us. We consider this a good plan which puts wildlife conservation at the beginning of the planning process."

The application was also praised for inclusion of an easement dedicated to the Blaine County Recreation District for a bike path that could one day connect it to Hailey.

"We have known for years that this property would be developed and I think the owners have done a great job," nearby resident Mark Acker said. "I appreciate that they dedicated property on Croy Creek Road for a bike path because one is surely needed."

However, Bergin pointed out that four of the proposed 21 lots are in the county's Mountain Overlay District since the district includes "knolls" and "islands" considered a continuation of the hillsides and therefore generally off-limits to development.

"Building within the Mountain Overlay District can only take place in limited instances when there are no other areas on a property to position a building," Bergin said in an interview. "In my view, this is not the case with Croy Creek Preserve."

Commissioner Rob Peck said the master site plan would have to be redrawn.

The next P&Z hearing on the subdivision is scheduled for June 28 at the Old County Courthouse.

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