Wednesday, October 27, 2010

County: Residents can keep berms

Rewritten ordinance provides options for landowners

Express Staff Writer

Berms along state Highway 75, seen here north of Hailey, may need to be partially shaved down to clear the way for a wider highway. A newly revised county ordinance could allow landowners to keep much of their berms, even if the Idaho Transportation Department must remove part of them to clear the wider right of way.

Blaine County residents who could have been forced to remove or relocate their berms due to the highway expansion project will be allowed to keep them, the county said Monday.

The Blaine County Commissioners are now redrafting a section of the Scenic Overlay District ordinance that would allow landowners to keep their berms and construct retaining walls even if the Idaho Transportation Department must shave down part of the berm's grade to clear the right of way.

The upcoming highway expansion project, projected to widen Highway 75 for about 27 miles from Timmerman Junction to Saddle Road in North Ketchum, requires a wider right of way that would encroach on the berms currently in place.

The new right of way may require the ITD, which is in charge of the project, to slice into the berms that landowners have constructed along the current roadway to block the noise and view of the highway.

While berms could simply be reconstructed farther back from the roadway, many of the current berms do not conform with the overlay and are only allowed because they pre-exist the ordinance.

Moving the berms would mean drastically lowering them in most cases, especially in the McCanville area just north of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center, and would cause the loss of the mature trees on the tops of the berms. The new version of the ordinance precludes this possibility.

The commissioners are expected to review and vote on a final draft of the ordinance on Tuesday, Nov. 2, during their regular meeting.

Katherine Wutz:

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