For the week of May 5, 1999  thru May 11, 1999  

Push for passage of open space bond begins

Express Staff Writer

Gannett resident Dick Springs wants to convince local voters to go to the polls and approve a $6.5-million bond issue to buy open space.

Representing the Save Our Open Spaces Committee, which is spearheading the drive for the bond, Springs spoke to the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday. It was the first of several planned promotional appearances before local government officials.

Springs called the preservation of open space in Blaine County a "wonderful legacy to leave for the future."

If voters approve the bond, Blaine County would buy open-space easements from landowners. In exchange, the landowner would permanently give up development rights.

The easements could protect agricultural resources, wildlife habitat, recreational and public access and areas of scenic value.

According to the Blaine County Assessor’s Office, the 10-year bond would increase property taxes by approximately $12 per $100,000 of assessed value.

The $6.5 million could be doubled when matched with funds available through federal and state conservation programs, Springs said.

A steering committee is developing selection criteria to identify critical parcels throughout the county.

The committee represents three districts and consists of 12 members appointed by the Blaine County Commissioners.

The members are:

  • South County: farmer Jerry Alred, SNRA biologist Robin Garwood, rancher Dick Springs, rancher Rob Struthers;

  • Mid-county: Hailey City Council Member Scott Basolo, Sawtooth Institute director Chris Gertshen, attorney Debra Kronenberg, rancher Kent McAtee;

  • North County: Realtor Brad Dufur, Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission Member Peter Ripsom, former Ketchum Council member Pam Ritzau, and businessman John Scherer.

The selection criteria, which have not been finished, are based on the results of a voter survey that asked what types of resources residents consider important.

Springs said the criteria will be used to determine which properties are critical for preservation and which represent the greatest potential for matching funds.

As outlined, the program is voluntary. Easements will be purchased only from land owners willing to sell them.

"It’s not our position to go out and twist arms and have owners bring properties to us," Springs said.

With the bond election less than three weeks away, Springs acknowledged that many people are uninformed about the initiative.

"If we could educate the people of the benefits of the program and how little it would cost, then I think people will be in favor of it," Springs said. "What’s not to like? It benefits everybody, the landowner and the public.

"Laws and policies change. Politicians come and go. But conservation easements will last forever."


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