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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of April 10 - 16 , 2002


Domino theory

The dominoes are set up. Will they fall?

That’s the question before planners and elected officials in Blaine County and its cities.

Both the county and cities are facing pushes for commercial development that eventually could gut town centers and turn Highway 75 into a classic commercial strip, complete with mini-malls and fast food joints.

Now that new commercial development in Hailey is pushing north along the highway, developers want a zoning change from residential to business for other nearby properties that would expand commercial development on the highway.

In Blaine County, planners are trying to decide whether to open the door to development of small stores and daycare operations within new subdivisions in order to reduce the number of times families must drive to town each day.

Before deciding what to do, city and county leaders should step back, look at the history of development in Blaine County and answer some bigger questions:

How do we want to live? What do we want our communities to become?

Do we want to homogenize the valley’s three very distinct communities into standard-issue suburban-style areas where the automobile is king? Or, do we want to preserve the small town ambiance for which the valley is known?

Do we want the entrance to a world famous resort and the largest wilderness area outside of Alaska to look like miles of L.A. strip malls?

Will we allow automobiles to dominate valley life or will the valley dominate automobiles? Will sheets of asphalt parking lots become the valley’s signature?

Will we look beyond off-the-shelf thinking to create innovative, attractive and livable communities? Or, will we submit quietly as mindless suburbanization chips away at the valley’s character bit by bit?

To date, elected leaders have retained the character of the valley and its communities through enlightened planning, zoning and commercial design review. They generally have insisted on better than standard-issue development.

Yet, north and south, pressure is building that could push that historical insistence aside.

If the cities and the county submit to every "change of character" argument that comes down the pike, they could trigger commercial development along the highway from north to south.

The rural sense the county sought to preserve, and the vital downtown areas the cities sought to foster, could be wiped out one little domino at a time.

Valley leaders should exercise care and vigilance when it comes to creating new business zones. There’s more at stake than meets the eye.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.