Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Camas may gut hillside ordinance

Hilltop construction in county halted earlier by court order

Express Staff Writer

A 10-year-old law in Camas County designed to prohibit construction of hilltop buildings that would be visible from roads may soon be taken off the books.

The county Planning and Zoning Commission will vote Dec. 6 on whether to approve an amendment to the county's zoning ordinance that would delete the provision.

Construction of one hilltop building, begun this summer near Fairfield, was shut down by court order.

Early last summer, part-time Ketchum resident Bill Cimino noticed an excavator on a hilltop adjacent to 38 acres he owns six miles north of Fairfield. Cimino said he thought the home under construction on the site was in violation of the hillside ordinance and notified county Building Administrator Dwight Butlin, who issued the building permit, to stop it.

"He was unwilling to stop it," said Cimino, who later hired attorney Michael Pogue to challenge the building permit's legality.

Butlin said in an interview that he did not believe the building violated the ordinance.

However, a temporary restraining order was issued by 5th District Judge Robert Elgee to stop construction on the land, owned by Boise resident Merlyn Colpron.

Since Elgee handed down his decision, Butlin said, he has helped draft a proposed new hillside ordinance that would probably allow Colpron to proceed.

A draft of the new ordinance strikes out a section that prohibits buildings that would be silhouetted visually within the skyline of a hilltop as seen by motorists unless all possible means of relocating the building elsewhere have been exhausted.

"In my opinion, it is arbitrary, because it permits some to build and others not to build. Everyone has to be treated the same," Butlin said.

The county commissioners are expected to vote on the new ordinance in January.

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