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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 July 31 - August 6, 2002


County denies plan to enlarge ridge-top house

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission denied a proposal last week that would have almost doubled the size of what is already one of the most conspicuous homes in the Wood River Valley.

The house sits atop a ridge behind St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center. Were its construction to be proposed today, it would probably be turned down based on the provisions of the county’s Mountain Overlay Zone. However, built in 1978, the house predates creation of the zone in 1991.

The building’s new owner, Roger Turner, a resident of New York City, filed an application to tear down the 4,500-square-foot house, and replace it on the same site with an 8,500-square-foot house. Efforts were made in the proposed house’s design to minimize its apparent bulk. It would be slightly lower than the existing house, and about 1,700 square feet of the added size would have come from construction of a basement. The design also included additional vegetation for screening.

Even so, the P&Z unanimously denied the application during a public hearing Thursday at the Old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Under the Mountain Overlay ordinance, existing homes that violate its standards, but are grandfathered in, may be replaced within the zone only when the proposed design is "less nonconforming" than the existing structure.

"They did a lot of really good things," P&Z Chair Suzanne Orb said about the proposed design in an interview. "The biggest problem was that the house was just too big."

Anjie Saunders, executive director of Citizens for Smart Growth, said she was "very pleased" with the outcome.

Garth McClure, an engineer with Benchmark Associates who represented Turner in his application, declined to comment, but said his client may submit a modified proposal.

If Turner does submit an application for a smaller building, it will apparently set the stage for a debate over whether the county can use the Mountain Overlay Ordinance to require him to rebuild on a less visually obtrusive site, if such a site exists on his property. Orb said she believes the right to rebuild on the existing site is grandfathered in as long as the proposed design is "less nonconforming" than the existing home.

However, Citizens for Smart Growth attorney Doug Werth contended it is only the existing structure, not the site, that is grandfathered. He said he believes the county can require an applicant to rebuild on a site that better meets the ordinance’s standards, one of which addresses decreasing visibility by building at lower elevations.



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