Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cold Springs stays in hillside district

Commissioners approve amendments to Mountain Overlay map

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County commissioners voted to approve a modified Mountain Overlay District on Monday, removing some areas from the district but leaving the hotly contested Cold Springs Bench closed to development.

The Cold Springs Bench, a 40-acre parcel behind St. Luke's Wood River that extends west into a narrow canyon, had been proposed for removal based on the fact that the bench itself is flat.

The bench has also been considered for development since the creation of a master plan for the McHanville area in 2009, and if excluded, would have had to include a certain amount of affordable housing in any potential development.

The commissioners did vote to move the district boundary in this area, but only to the west side of the Wood River Trails bike path, which goes behind the hospital property.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said Tuesday that the idea of opening the bench to development split the commissioners.

"We didn't agree," she said.

While Commissioner Tom Bowman was in favor of removing the bench from the district, McCleary and Commissioner Larry Schoen were not, citing the ordinance's provision that any canyon with a mouth less than 500 feet in width—such as the one that opens into the bench—must be included in the district.


McCleary said the line was moved in this area because the district split a property boundary.

"My recollection is that the line actually ran through the hospital," she said Tuesday. "We all agreed, that wasn't hillside."

The Mountain Overlay District is a zoning district intended to prevent building on hillside slopes of a certain grade.

The ordinance states that its intended purpose is to limit development in areas that would be difficult for first responders to reach in an emergency, as well as areas where construction of infrastructure such as septic systems would be difficult.

The district also helps maintain slope stability, the ordinance states, and keeps homes out of potential avalanche zones.

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.

Commissioners began rectifying those errors in December, completing the extensive and complicated task this week.

Areas removed from the Mountain Overlay District include one home site near Adams Gulch Road, a segment of canyon off Croy Creek Road behind the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley and a large portion of land in Ohio Gulch.

The commissioners will sign the finished ordinance and approve the final map later this month during a public meeting.

Katherine Wutz:

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