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For the week of May 31 through June 6, 2000

McHanville rezone
moves ahead

Medical office buildings, day-care facilities in the plan

One major problem that has yet to be resolved by county officials is how to prevent…a comp plan change from allowing not only the McHanville medical uses, but also unwanted commercial sprawl throughout the county.

Express Staff Writer

A group composed of Blaine County Planning and Zoning staff, county commissioners and landowners yesterday took a major step toward rezoning the McHanville area south of Ketchum.

By meeting’s end, the group had directed P&Z staff to draft a new zoning ordinance for the area that will allow medical and high-density residential uses in the area. The ordinance would also allow some existing businesses that don’t fit those categories to continue to operate.

The draft will require extensive review and final approval by the county P&Z commission—a process that could take from several months to a year and a half, according to P&Z staff. Initial P&Z consideration is tentatively scheduled for June 20.

The rezone, officials say, would likely allow the controversial 40,000-square-foot medical office building proposed by St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center—and denied by P&Z two weeks ago—to become a permitted use in the area.

If so, the structure could be built without a public hearing process.

The rezone would, in effect, provide a second option in the event that a likely St. Luke’s appeal of the P&Z denial fails in the coming months.

Yesterday’s meeting was the latest of about 10 informal workshops that have been scheduled with increasing frequency over the past year.

According to P&Z staff, the meetings have been regularly attended by St. Luke’s planner John Gaeddert and McHanville landowners, but not by other members of the public.

Public notices for the meetings have appeared on bulletin boards in the Blaine County Courthouse, the Hailey Post Office and Atkinsons’ Market in Hailey, but not in local media.

The notice called for a meeting "to discuss planning and zoning issues"—but didn’t mention McHanville.

Commissioner Leonard Harlig, during an interview last Monday, said that’s because "We’re just trying to get something down on paper that people can review and amend.

"Rezones come about so seldom that I don’t think there’s a formal process, but somebody has to put the work in."

Harlig said county officials, landowners or any member of the public can submit a draft zoning ordinance for consideration by county P&Z.

Both St. Luke’s and McHanville landowners have wanted to rezone the area for years, Harlig said, but long-standing, insurmountable county requirements have prevented that.

The most important requirement, Harlig said, was construction of an access road in the area that would concentrate traffic entering and exiting Highway 75 to one or two intersections.

Harlig said construction of the road by St. Luke’s last year initiated the latest round of rezone meetings. Recent denial of St. Luke’s proposed medical office building is not a factor in the rezone, he said.

Nevertheless, the recent workshops have resulted in a list of possible medical uses that include medical office buildings, as well as child-care facilities, another kind of building St. Luke’s officials have said they are tentatively planning.

P&Z administrator Deborah Vignes said during a telephone interview last week that a zoning change in McHanville to allow medical uses would require a change to the county’s comprehensive plan. That change would need to allow commercial uses outside city limits, something that is currently not allowed by the comp plan.

One major problem that has yet to be resolved by county officials is how to prevent such a comp plan change from allowing not only the McHanville medical uses, but also unwanted commercial sprawl throughout the county.

Harlig addressed that concern briefly during yesterday’s hour-and-a-half-long meeting when he indicated he was in favor of imposing some restrictions that "may not be very popular."

"It seems to me that one of the ways you can [control commercial sprawl] is to allow permitted uses up to a point," Harlig said, without elaborating on how to determine that point.

St. Luke’s land in McHanville is currently zoned Recreational Development, which is designed to guide development that is directly related to recreation. The Rotarun Ski Area west of Hailey and the Warm Springs Golf Course, for example, are in Recreational Development zones.

County officials amended the text of the Recreational Development zoning ordinance in 1998 to allow hospitals to be built in that zone if approved during an extensive public review process. St. Luke’s gained that approval for its hospital in the spring of 1999.


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