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For the week of Oct. 27, 1999 through Nov. 2, 1999

Blaine County Commissioners approve south county subdivision

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Commissioners—on a split vote—approved a south county subdivision request on Monday.

After a lengthy public hearing process which saw the application scrutinized twice by the Planning and Zoning Commission and three times by the commissioners, the request was finally approved on a two to one vote.

Commissioner Leonard Harlig cast the dissenting vote on the grounds that the proposal did not conform with the county’s comprehensive plan and its zoning and subdivision ordinances.

Voting for the measure were Mary Ann Mix, the commission chairperson, and Commissioner Dennis Wright.

Both indicated they supported the property owner’s application largely because of concessions regarding density and preserving open space.

In voting to deny the application, Harlig said the main issue was the preservation of agricultural land and the potential detrimental impact the subdivision might have on surrounding farming operations.

The application by William and Mary Helen Leet proposed to subdivide 104 acres into four 26 acre lots. The property is zoned A-20 Productive Agriculture and is located on the southwest corner of Baseline Road and Schoessler Lane.

Following the previous hearing on Sept. 20, the commissioners continued the matter with instructions to the applicant to reconfigure the building lots, mitigate the commission’s concerns over building density and address the preservation of agricultural issue.

The basis for argument in all five hearings involved the rights of land owners to subdivide their property versus the impact of residential development on surrounding agricultural land.

Representing the applicant, Mike Choat of Galena Engineering read a passage from the comprehensive plan which he said cuts to the heart of the issue.

"The continuation of the market in viable agricultural properties is essential to the survival of the agricultural community and its lands," he said. "Ranch and farm owners must find that their land investment is a good one..."

Choat said the Leet application was supported by other south county property owners who realize the ability to subdivide is vital in maintaining the value of the land.

However, attorney Ned Williamson, representing south county farmers Dean Rogers and Judy Roger, said, "agriculture is their livelihood, farming is their life. Their (the Rogers) concern is for the preservation of agricultural land and the impact of development on their farming operations."

Williamson said his clients were concerned about the cumulative effect that could result from approval of the Leet application.

"If this application is approved, other applications for subdivision in the south county will be made."

Referring to similar subdivisions denied by the commission which have resulted in litigation, Williamson said the county was on good legal footing in denying previous south county subdivisions based on nonconformance with the comprehensive plan.

"This application will not preserve agriculture (as mandated by the comp plan)," Williamson said. "Ranchettes are not the type of parcels that will keep agriculture in perpetuity."

South county farmer Dean Rogers said the cumulative effect of surrounding productive farmland combined with development would result in a "straitjacket of regulations" adversely affecting farming operations and ultimately forcing farmers out of business.


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