Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cove Springs is back before the county

New subdivision plan pulls most of the development out of the 'Cove'

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County's much-anticipated reconsideration of an application to develop the 4,630-acre Cove Ranch, five miles south of Bellevue, has begun.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had its first view of the new development plan during a public meeting last Thursday, and will resume its examination on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room at the Old Blaine County Courthouse

The new Cove Springs development plan would replace a previous version that was highly controversial with the public and was rejected by the County Commission in October 2007. That led the developers to sue the county in January 2008, claiming the commissioners had improperly denied their development application.

Last summer, the county and Cove Springs developers sat down together to discuss the impasse. The result of those mediation talks was an agreement between both sides that said the developers would come up with a revised development plan, which the county would then consider.

Perhaps the most significant change seen in the new subdivision plan is a reduction from an original 306 lots to 24 lots within the portion of the property known as "the Cove," a circular basin tucked into the hills on the east side of the property. The developers' previous desire to construct a high-density subdivision in that area—which officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say contains important sage grouse and wintering elk habitat—didn't go over well with the County Commission or many members of the public.

Rather than place the majority of the density there, developers now propose to shift most of the subdivision's footprint to the northern end of the ranch. In all, the developers propose to create 217 lots, including those in the Cove. That's 26 percent fewer lots than county zoning allows on the property, they say.

Whether the change will please county officials remains to be seen. It now seems to place most of the development on the ranch's high-quality farmland, which the previous plan had kept intact—a decision by the developers that the county commissioners praised at the time.

Jason Kauffman:

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