For the week of June 2, 1999  thru June 8, 1999  

County puts brakes on berms

Design restrictions ahead

Express Staff Writer

u2berm.jpg (9672 bytes)Berms are a growing concern along State Highway 75.

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners has imposed an emergency 30-day moratorium on construction of berms within the scenic corridor adjacent to State Highway 75.

The moratorium affects property within 300 feet of the centerline of State Highway 75 and extends north of Glendale Road to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area boundary.

The halt prohibits construction of new earthen berms exceeding two feet in height and the placement of additional material on existing berms that would increase their height. The decision also prohibits planting of new trees on existing berms.

The moratorium does not include berms previously approved by the county as part of subdivision agreements.

The county defines berms as "any mound, hill, ridge, or other landscaping created by the act of man in pushing, dumping or otherwise accumulating soil, fill, rock, or combination thereof above the natural grade of such property."

In November, 1998, the commissioners formed a Berm Committee to study and recommend action on berms, whose numbers were multiplying.

The moratorium was imposed in response to a discussion of amendments to the Blaine County Zoning Ordinance proposed by the Berm Committee.

The proposal called for an ordinance requiring review of landscape design and berms within the scenic corridor, including height, spacing and setbacks of berms from State Highway 75, plantings of berms and the visual effect on corridors.

The property covered by the moratorium is essentially unregulated. The county’s Comprehensive Plan emphasizes the "vital importance" of aesthetic values to the residents of Blaine County as well as the recreational economy of the area in relation to the State Highway 75 view corridor.

The study also says that regulation of berms also promotes safety for traffic along State Highway 75 by avoiding increased levels of water drainage from adjacent lands, by reducing visual impairments created by berms, and by preserving sight lines and distant visibility for travel.

Berm Committee member Marc McGregor and author of the proposed berm regulations, said he was in favor of the moratorium.

"When people see regulations coming they try to slip in under the wire and perform work before regulations go into effect," McGregor said.

Commissioner MaryAnn Mix said the moratorium would prohibit any new activity. This will give the county time to get public reaction on the berm issue and refine proposed amendments made by the committee.

Zoning administrator Deborah Vignes said she was concerned about properties in violation of zoning ordinances. Vignes said the planning office only has so much control over the enforcement of ordinances and that she would like to see an effort addressing enforcement issues and reports of violations acted on in a more timely fashion.

Board assistant, Denise Jackson said the county has videotaped all existing berms from Glendale Road up to the SNRA boundaries to assist in enforcing the moratorium.

The board will hold a public hearing to consider the berm ordinance on June 21.


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