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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 October 2 - 8, 2002


County targets 
trophy homes
reduce impacts

Express Staff Writer

If a proposal floated during a Blaine County commissioners meeting last week becomes reality, those who build large "trophy homes" will be required to pay for the privilege.

The issue arose unexpectedly at the beginning of a meeting Sept. 25 on a proposed transfer-of-development-rights ordinance. The primary purpose of a TDR program is to preserve south county agriculture by directing development closer to cities. However, the TDR concept has been used in other jurisdictions to reduce house sizes and their impacts on the community.

Commission Chairwoman Mary Ann Mix told the 25 people attending last Wednesday’s meeting that the board intends to add a provision to the proposed ordinance requiring builders of homes 4,500 square feet or larger to buy one development right for each additional 2,500 square feet of space.

"We’re aware of the tremendous impact that these trophy homes have on our infrastructure," Mix said.

Commissioner Sarah Michael added that the owners of large homes should help preserve open space elsewhere in the county. Under the TDR program, the owners of parcels in designated "sending areas" could sell the rights to build as many units as zoning allows on undeveloped portions of their property.

In an interview, Commissioner Dennis Wright said the board had been considering the concept for quite some time as an alternative to a flat-out cap on house sizes, which, he said, would likely be vulnerable to court challenges.

"This doesn’t prohibit anything," he said. "No one’s saying you don’t have a right to go there, but that maybe some of the effects should be mitigated."

A similar measure has been in place in Pitkin County, Colo., since June 2000. Under that ordinance, builders of homes larger than 5,750 square feet must buy TDRs to get additional space. Pitkin County Planner Ezra Louthis said that since the provision has been in effect, about half the homes built have been done with additional TDRs. He said many homes have come in at almost exactly 5,750 square feet, indicating that the ordinance has had some effect in reducing size.

Louthis said prices for TDRs in the Pitkin County, which surrounds Aspen, have ranged between $150,000 and $200,000. Wright said he doubts that TDRs in Blaine County would go for more than $50,000 apiece, and would probably be quite a bit less. At that price, he said, they are unlikely to have much effect on house size.

"The few people who are playing that game have millions of discretionary dollars," he said.



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