Wednesday, July 24, 2013

County plans to manage rights of way

Enforcement delayed in Hulen Meadows

Express Staff Writer

    An effort to enforce Blaine County’s 60-foot road right of way in Hulen Meadows subdivision has prompted county commissioners to consider drafting a countywide right-of-way management plan.
    Last fall, the county sent letters to 41 residents in the subdivision north of Ketchum notifying them of encroachments into the county right of way. Items include trees, berms and solid objects such as rock structures and posts. In an interview, county Operations Director Char Nelson said the encroachments primarily affect snowplowing and access for fire trucks. She said that if there’s insufficient area to store snow, it flows back onto the road when it melts, requiring the county to plow a second time.
    During a meeting on the matter Tuesday, County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg also raised the issue of tree roots buckling roads and interfering with gas line maintenance.
    Nelson said 98 properties in the subdivision have encroachments, though most are minor. She said the county regularly notifies property owners all over the county about violations of its right-of-way ordinance whenever those violations affect operations, but recent efforts focused on Hulen Meadows because of the number of encroachments there.
    However, during two meetings with the commissioners this month, Hulen Meadows residents said they were being unfairly singled out.
    “I think 99 percent of the people in our neighborhood think there isn’t a problem,” Hulen Meadows resident Jeff Steinberg told the commissioners Tuesday.
    Hulen Meadows homeowners association President Donna Finegan asked for time to allow the residents there to “monitor ourselves” regarding problem spots.
    Commissioner Larry Schoen suggested that enforcement be delayed until the county crafts a management plan on how to enforce the ordinance in an equitable way throughout the county.  Statements made by all three commissioners and others at the meeting indicated the challenge of balancing equitable enforcement against minimizing inconvenience to property owners and the expenditure of county funds.
    “It’s not a magical fix,” Commissioner Angenie McCleary said, “that as soon as we have a county policy that it will be an easy issue. It still means dealing with different situations.”
    Though no vote on the matter was taken, the commissioners appeared to agree to suspend subdivision-wide enforcement in Hulen Meadows until a management plan can be considered. However, Schoen said individual violations will continue to be enforced throughout the county when necessary.

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