Friday, January 13, 2012

Debate continues on MOD

Bench area “deliberately” excluded, says former commissioner

Express Staff Writer

The devil was in the details for Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday as they struggled to come to resolution on whether the Cold Springs bench behind St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center should remain included in the Mountain Overlay District.

The Mountain Overlay District is an area that the county has determined to be unsuitable for development due to the land's steep slope.

The district was defined by former county Planner Jeff Adams using computer-mapping software. However, the software was not accurate to a fault, and in setting the district boundary it divided property lines and included flat areas that could be safely developed.

The county commissioners set out to fix those flaws last month, and continued during a Tuesday meeting to determine which of 41 sites would be removed from the district and why.

Debate over one such area, the Cold Springs bench behind the hospital, has characterized the discussions over the district so far.

Former Blaine County Commissioner Len Harlig said the 40-acre property was deliberately included in the district when it was created in 1991 for a number of reasons, including emergency access.

"Some fire breaks out up there, and 50 cars try to come down the same road firefighters want to go up," Harlig said. "It can't be done. [The bench] belongs where it is, and it shouldn't be taken out."

County Commissioner Tom Bowman said the access issue is not unique to this area, and developments in other areas of the county, such as East Fork, Croy Canyon and Starweather, have the same problem.

"People want the Mountain Overlay District to be more than it really is," he said. "[Access] would be considered during any subdivision application."

County Commissioner Angenie McCleary said the area could be removed if a future application for developing the area were to include a specific plan for better road access.

"It's really tough without an application for development to know how to comment," she said.

The county commissioners did not make a decision regarding the site during Tuesday's meeting. Discussion and debate on the district will be continued at the county's regular meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, at 1:30 p.m. at the old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

Katherine Wutz:

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