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For the week of November 8 through 14, 2000

Play by the rules

What’s in a law, a regulation, an ordinance, a rule?

In baseball, rules are everything. Locally, we’re not so sure these days.

In Blaine County, some rules seem to be things to be broken now and negotiated later.

In Ketchum, the rules seem to be becoming something to be followed until someone can find a way around them. The city is entertaining an ordinance that could allow developers to sidestep zoning laws.

Blaine County has allowed the developer of the Golden Eagle Ranch to flaunt its rules on the size and setback of highway berms—with no serious repercussions. The ranch brought a portion of its outsized berms into compliance at the county’s request, but left more than 100 yards—the length of a football field—in violation.

A developer’s representative seems confident the county will issue an "as-built" variance and OK the blatant defiance of an ordinance in a highly visible development adjacent to Highway 75.

So much for respect for county ordinances, respect for democratically elected representatives who approved them, and respect for the public they are intended to serve.

Unlike Blaine County, Ketchum planners seem very willing to join the Let’s Make-It-Up-As We-Go College of Land Use Planning.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission is considering an ordinance that would allow the city to create customized zoning for specific sites with "unusual" characteristics.

For example, it would enable the city to preclude office and medical uses from a zone where those uses would otherwise be allowed, but are deemed incompatible with their immediate surroundings.

Just who would do the deeming is unclear. A hearing is scheduled Nov. 27.

The city’s desire to be "flexible" is understandable, if not wise. It’s the same pressure baseball umpires feel on a close call on a slide into home plate when both coaches exit the dugouts and start yelling.

Cities who carry out the will of the people as written in zoning ordinances are constantly criticized by developers, engineers and architects as "inflexible." This ordinance could change all that. City officials and planners might get back on developers’ Christmas card lists. However, it could mean the death of zoning in the city.

What self-respecting developer, architect, engineer could not find "unusual characteristics" on a site in an effort to squeeze more bucks out of it or achieve a particular vision?

The city and the county need to quit pussyfooting around their own ordinances, avoid making fools of people who abide by them and see to it that everyone plays by the same rules.


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