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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 9 - 15, 2002


Plans with land-use opportunities galore

Policymakers on two Blaine County boards have within their grasp opportunities for leading the way in the wise and innovative use of land.

First, county commissioners are pondering the inventive use of transfer development rights to help preserve open space in south county agricultural areas by allowing builders of mega-homes to "buy" TDRs from farming tracts for larger home sites.

Second, the county’s planning and zoning commission can rescue a proposed affordable housing incentive plan from death by reworking it to overcome objections expressed by P&Z members.

In both these cases, even unrelated as they seem to be, is the essence of managing Blaine County’s slowly vanishing private land resources for maximum benefits all around.

The Wood River Valley is blossoming with larger homes. Ultimately, as land for new homes becomes more precious, builders will turn to the open space in farmlands. Tempting purchase offers will inevitably lead to more open space being retired to make way for more development.

Under an idea being considered by county commissioners, builders of large homes would be required to buy development rights for homes exceeding a certain square footage. In Pitkin County, Colo., near Aspen, where such a plan is working, homes exceeding 5,750 square feet must buy development rights for more floor space at costs of $100,000 to $250,000.

The result is that owners of open space are rewarded by selling TDRs to builders of large homes and open space is preserved. A happy and desirable arrangement.

Then there’s the affordable housing overlay that’s in trouble at the P&Z—a plan that would provide builders with the incentive of greater density in exchange for devoting some land for affordable housing.

This concept would deal with one of Blaine County’s genuine crises—the shrinking stock of affordable housing for workers who operate the area’s public and private infrastructure.

The county P&Z has not only a chance but also an obligation to put forward its best efforts to refine this plan that encourages affordable housing construction. Rather than throwing their hands up in despair, whatever objections P&Z members may find in the present outline can be overcome.

If the idea is sent to its death, then P&Z members bear the responsibility for increasing the futility of workers in finding housing they can afford and remaining in Blaine County on their jobs.



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