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For the week of Oct. 20, 1999 through Oct. 26, 1999

Berm ordinance approved by county commissioners

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Commissioners last week adopted an ordinance to regulate construction of berms and fences and the planting of vegetation along state Highway 75.

The purpose of the ordinance is to protect views and enhance safety along the highway.

The ordinance creates a Scenic Highway Overlay District located within 100 feet of the highway and extending north from the intersection with U.S. Route 20 to the Custer County boundary. It requires design review for landscaping within these boundaries.

The ordinance establishes maximum berm and fence heights and includes design standards and limitations on the planting of vegetation and trees on berms.

It also outlines procedures and standards for obtaining site alteration permits in the scenic highway overlay district; and establishes categorical exclusions that may exempt certain property owners from compliance with the ordinance.

Approved on Tuesday of last week, the action was the culmination of numerous public hearings and workshops.

On May 26, the commissioners imposed a 30-day emergency moratorium on the construction of new berms and the placement of additional material on existing berms that would increase their height. On June 21, the board extended the moratorium 120 days.

An alleged violation of the moratorium at the Flying Heart Ranch subdivision east of Hailey led to legal action by the county, now pending in Fifth District Court.

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the ordinance this summer and recommended its adoption.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Commissioner Leonard Harlig said that in considering the the county was trying to protect the rights of property owners along the scenic corridor without impacting the larger values of the community.ordinance,

According to the ordinance, the use of berms as a landscaping device to protect the visual aspects of the scenic corridor, or for the benefit of private property owners, has led to unanticipated negative effects. High berms, in a continuous line with tall trees, lead to ice formation on the highway and streets in winter and to impairment of views.

The ordinance considers heights, spacing, setbacks, the planting of berms and the visual effect on view corridors.



Some of the landscaping rules for your Highway 75 property

Under the county’s new berm ordinance, landscaping design standards include:

Toes of earthen berms shall be located no closer than five feet from the property line nearest to the highway.

Peaks of berms and the top of free-standing walls shall not exceed the following maximum heights: From a 5- to 20-foot setback from the highway, maximum berm height is four feet. From a 20- to 75-foot setback from the highway, maximum berm height is five feet. And from a setback greater than 75 feet, maximum berm height is six feet.

Agricultural fences on lands within the R-5, A-10 and A-20 districts are allowed. Other fences must be of a post-and-pole design with a maximum top rail height of 42 inches and with a bottom rail at least 16 inches off the ground to allow movement of wildlife across the highway.

Property more than 100 feet from Highway 75 isn’t affected. For lots within 100 feet of the highway, fences of wooden construction no higher than five feet are allowed.

Fences may not be constructed on berms.

Trees and shrubs may only be planted within the lowest two vertical feet of berms. No more than 30 percent of the width of a lot measured parallel to Highway 75 shall be occupied by trees and shrubs, and no more than 25 percent of such trees and shrubs shall be conifers. In order to avoid shading and icing of Highway 75, clusters and screens of trees and shrubs shall be planted at least 10 feet from the property line nearest the highway.

Vegetation on berms, other than trees and shrubs, shall be limited to native or native-compatible drought tolerant grasses, wild flowers and ground cover.

Landscaping plans approved in subdivision application permits granted prior to the May 26 berm moratorium are considered categorical exclusions and are permitted by the ordinance.



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