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For the week of May 17 through May 23, 2000

County tables Carey area-of-impact agreement

Carey locals compare Wood River Valley to foreign country

"The problem I see is that you don't trust the county commissioners or the county P&Z to make good decisions about things that affect you."

Len Harlig, county commissioner

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County officials, during a meeting held in Carey last week, tabled a plan drafted by that city’s leaders to give them greater control over development of land surrounding the city.

Called the Carey Area of City Impact Agreement, the plan would allow Carey officials to consider development proposals within 53 square miles of county property surrounding Carey.

City officials would use a combination of county and city development rules to either approve or deny development applications within the proposed area of impact.

During the meeting on Tuesday of last week at Carey City Hall, Mayor Rick Baird said people living in the tightly knit Carey Valley feel more comfortable dealing with each other than they do with people in the Wood River Valley.

"That’s really what this entire process has been about," Baird said of the plan, which has been in development for five years. "It’s neighbors making decisions for neighbors."

The three county commissioners, Leonard Harlig, Mary Ann Mix and Dennis Wright, refused to accept the plan because, they said, given Carey’s current needs, it allows the city too much control over too much surrounding land.

The commissioners also said they could not accept the plan because it allows Carey to approve subdivisions the county might not approve.

And, they said, the plan does not allow the entire Blaine County community to comment on future proposed development in the county.

"What I see here is a solution searching desperately for a problem," Commissioner Harlig said. "And the problem I see is that you don't trust the county commissioners or the county P&Z to make good decisions about things that affect you."

That comment followed a slew of testimony by Carey Valley residents during the meeting, who, for the most part, expressed an extreme aversion to their land-use decisions being made in the Wood River Valley.

"I think sometimes when the government gets too far away from the people they forget why they’re there, which is to serve the people," said Carey Valley resident Mike Kelsey. "The way it is right now, we feel like we’re going into a foreign country when we go [to the Wood River Valley] and try to get approval to do something within our own community."

Carey Valley residents complained that county ordinances are overly complex and that county staff and officials at the old Blaine County Courthouse consistently tell them what they cannot do but never explain what they can do.

Carey Valley resident Lee Cook perhaps summed up the local sentiment best when he said, "It seems like to me, now, it’s you and us."

Cook said he had a "tremendous time" trying to sell his 10 acres of land before finally giving up in the face of Blaine County bureaucracy.

For their part, county commissioners questioned whether the area-of-impact plan would simplify the process for Carey Valley residents since the plan relies on Carey officials to interpret and apply county ordinances.

Reaching an impasse after two hours of discussion, county and city officials agreed to begin reworking the plan in a series of informal workshop sessions.


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