Wednesday, February 2, 2011

County considers change to Mountain Overlay District

Commissioner Bowman says district needs map-based fix

Express Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Blaine County GIS Much of the Ohio Gulch area north of Hailey, shown above, is currently included in the Mountain Overlay District, the boundaries of which are shown in red. Commissioner Tom Bowman has suggested the district boundaries should be modified in this and other locations to exclude areas that obviously do not fit the districtís criteria. Bowmanís suggested boundaries are shown above in yellow.

Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman said he sought to bring "legitimacy" to the Mountain Overlay District on Monday as he presented a series of boundary changes that could remove parts of Lake Creek, Adam's Gulch and Highway 75 from the district.

Bowman said he was not proposing that the commissioners change the district's boundaries, but pointing out "mistakes" in the original mapping.

"I'm just identifying issues here," he said. "I'm making this legitimate by excluding areas that were never meant to be included."

The Mountain Overlay District was created in 2006 to limit development on steep slopes. When the district was mapped, the tools available at the time did not provide the necessary accuracy that is now available through programs such as Google Earth. That led to the inclusion of several areas that do not meet district criteria, Bowman said.

Commissioner Larry Schoen contended that the changes Bowman was suggesting are unnecessary. Schoen argued that certain areas within the district's boundaries, such as one that reaches into Camas County, obviously aren't meant to come under its jurisdiction.

"It's a line that's there, but it doesn't mean anything," Schoen said.

The commissioners approved a text amendment last month that would provide landowners an exemption from inclusion in the district if they could prove their land did not meet the district's criteria.

The amendment was meant to help "clean up" the district, but Bowman said remapping could eliminate most landowner complaints.

"We can't get 100 percent, but we can get 95 percent," he said. "I'm proposing we get the hassle factor out of this ordinance."

Former County Commissioner Len Harlig, who worked with Bowman on the boundaries, said he agreed that remapping would be more effective.

"Having a text amendment is not the way to redress an inadvertent inclusion," he said.

Harlig said applications for exclusion require staff review before approval, a time-consuming and costly process.

In addition to the several subdivisions that Bowman said could be excluded via legislation, he pointed to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Headquarters north of Ketchum. The building is located on a flat parcel of federal land over which the county has no jurisdiction, though the headquarters is located in the district. Bowman's boundaries, as presented, would remove the parcel from the district. The suggested boundaries would also fix the district's encroachment on the cities of Ketchum and Bellevue as well as Camas County.

Don Nurge, a former county planning and zoning commissioner, said now is the perfect time to modify the district.

"There's no building going on," he said. "Sweep it away, get it done, so when we get back to the building boom we don't have to deal with it."

Schoen and Commissioner Angenie McCleary said modification of the district's boundaries would likely become a county priority.

"We know it's a priority for at least one commissioner," McCleary said.

Katherine Wutz:

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