Wednesday, May 6, 2009

County paves the way for Cove Springs

Express Staff Writer

After several years of deliberation and a lawsuit filed by developers, county officials are poised to allow a development plan for ranch lands south of Bellevue to move forward.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the Blaine County Commissioners moved just short of approving a revised development application for the 4,635-acre Cove Ranch.

"There's nothing in the way of final approval of this," said Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman.

The commission will meet again on May 26 for a final review of conditions that will ultimately go into a development agreement.

The first application to develop the ranch was ultimately rejected by the county in late 2007, which led to a protracted court battle and, ultimately, a mediated agreement between the county and the Cove Springs developers. The agreement stated that the developers would come up with a revised application that the county would then consider.

The new Cove Springs application most notably pulls most of the original 300-plus lots envisioned for a portion of the ranch known as the Cove. Under the revised application, just 24 estate and equestrian lots will be built on that portion of the ranch.

The home sites on those lots will be limited to a one-acre building envelope.

In March, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval for the revised application as well as an application to rezone the northern portion of the ranch, closest to Bellevue, to allow more residential density in that area in the future. Yesterday's approval from the commission gave a green light to both applications.

One longstanding dispute between the county and developers that had threatened to throw the application into limbo again was fixed to the commissioners' liking. Both sides ultimately agreed to a recent delineation that indicates which lands on the ranch will remain off-limits to development because of their inclusion in the Mountain Overlay District, which prohibits development on land that exceeds 25 percent slope angle.

Jason Kauffman:

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