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For the week of July 10 - 16, 2002


State appeals Ohio Gulch court decision

Express Staff Writer

A 5th District Court decision upholding Blaine County’s prohibition of gravel mining in Ohio Gulch will go to the Idaho Supreme Court.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office filed a notice of appeal July 3 in 5th District Court of Judge James May’s ruling granting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the county.

The issue arose two years ago when the county denied a conditional-use permit to McStay Construction to mine gravel on a 20-acre parcel of state school endowment land, zoned Agricultural and Residential. The state filed suit, arguing that its constitutional mandate to manage school endowment land for the maximum financial return trumped the county’s zoning authority.

May ruled that the state land is subject to local zoning ordinances. He noted that the Legislature had exempted only two state entities from the Local Land Use Planning Act, and the Land Board was not one of them. The Land Board is composed of the state’s five highest ranking elected officials.

The case will likely not be heard by the Supreme Court for at least several months. Under state court rules, the 5th District Court has 105 days to deliver a record of the case to the Supreme Court. The court will review the entire file and determine whether it agrees with May’s reasoning.

In an interview, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s press secretary, Mark Snider, said he saw no contradiction between the state’s actions on the Ohio Gulch case and the administration’s often-expressed support for local decision making. He said the Land Board had decided the issue should be resolved by the Supreme Court, and would like to avoid a precedent being set that could impede the state’s management of its lands.

At least one county official, however, saw differently.

"Consistency is not the strong point of the state administration on these kinds of issues," said County Commissioner Sarah Michael.


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