Friday, May 10, 2013

County: Hillside road needs permit

Neighbors express concern over cut off Townsend Gulch Road

Express Staff Writer

County land-use officials have determined that this road built on a hillside off of Townsend Gulch Road near Bellevue was done so without a permit. The landowner has stopped work, but the county is still awaiting a permit application for the project. Photo by Willy Cook

    County land-use officials say they are working with a Bellevue-area landowner to address the issue of an unpermitted road cut into a hillside off of Townsend Gulch Road.
    Blaine County Land Use and Building Services Director Tom Bergin said Wednesday that he and county Code Compliance Specialist Diane Shay had received several calls from neighbors concerned about the road.
    Bergin said that he and Shay went on a site visit to the property, at 93 Townsend Gulch Road, on May 1 and viewed the cut into the hillside.
    “It is quite obvious from Townsend Gulch Road,” he said. “I can understand the neighbors’ concerns up there.”
    Bergin said the road’s length is estimated at about 1,000 feet and it gains about 150 feet in elevation.
    The property is located in the county’s Mountain Overlay District, a zoning overlay intended to limit development within the area. The code states that the purposes of limiting development include an attempt to “preserve the natural character and aesthetic value of hillsides and mountains in the county by regulating development thereon” and to “prevent scarring of hillsides and mountains made by cuts and fills and/or by access roads.”
    Other purposes include limiting development to areas that can be safely accessed by emergency vehicles and which are not at risk from damage by avalanche or wildfire.
    Bergin said the road is in violation of the zoning regulations, and that the work would have required a site-alteration permit. Bergin said a “stop work” order was issued for the road on May 2, and that the landowner has until May 13 to submit an application for a site-alteration permit.
    The county code states that a site-alteration permit should include a number of criteria, including ways in which the visibility of the alteration would be minimized from reference roads, such as Broadford Road and Townsend Gulch.
    Shay said the road is currently visible from “several” reference roads. She said she and Bergin spoke with the landowner both during the site visit and during a follow-up office visit, and that the landowner has been informed of the restrictions on his property.
    “We made sure he had full understanding of the county code,” she said. “We gave him all of the restrictions that pertain to that type of work.”
    Bergin said the landowner is cooperating with the county to rectify the situation.
    Blaine County Geographical Information Systems lists the property as being owned by Paces Ferry LLC.
    The most recent annual report for the corporation on file lists a single member, Robert Christensen, and gives his address as 93 Townsend Gulch Road. Christensen also signed the certificate of authority for the corporation, filed in May 2011.

Kate Wutz:

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