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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 23 - 29, 2002

News

County denies 
Mountain Overlay 
change


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

Homeowners in Blaine Countyís Mountain Overlay Zone who want to build a separate house for their guests will have to wait a while.

Deeming the inability to build a guest house to be something less than an emergency, the county commissioners on Monday declined for now to amend a county ordinance to allow some accessory dwelling units in the Mountain Overlay Zone.

The change would have resolved a contradiction in county law. An ordinance passed in 1994, dubbed the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" ordinance, allows an applicant who wants to construct a building in the Mountain Overlay Zone to bypass a requirement that he or she obtain a site-alteration permit from the Planning and Zoning Commission, and go directly to a building permit application, so long as the proposed building is out of sight of a public road. The countyís accessory dwelling unit ordinance, however, passed in 1995, prohibits accessory dwelling units in any overlay zone.

As a result, big trophy homes can be built in the Mountain Overlay Zone if they are out of sight, but a small guest house canít be built there at all.

The Mountain Overlay Zone covers residential-zoned areas in the county on slopes of more than 25 percent, and of more than 15 percent along Highway 75. It forbids development on those slopes if a flatter site on a parcel is available and places conditions on building when no better site is available.

Mondayís proposal was made by Alan Pesky, who owns property in Adamís Gulch. However, his attorney, Tom Campion, declined to say in an interview whether his client would like to build an accessory dwelling unit on that property.

"Weíve got two ordinance provisions that absolutely, directly contradict each other," Campion told the commissioners. "Whatever the board decides to do, something needs to be done."

Former County Commissioner Len Harlig, who was on the board when both ordinances were adopted, supported Peskyís proposal.

"The county commissioners did not intend for the prohibition against ADUs in all overlay districts to override or eliminate the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" exception to the Mountain Overlay District," Harlig stated in an affidavit. "However, because the two ordinances were adopted at different times, no one noticed that there was a conflicting provision."

He said the boardís intent in adopting the prohibition against accessory dwelling units in overlay zones was to reduce the visual and environmental impact of development in those areas. However, he stated, buildings that are not visible do not violate the first of those concerns, and the second concern is addressed at the building permit stage.

Commissioner Sarah Michael was not swayed by that argument, and based her opposition on a Sept. 26 recommendation by the planning and zoning commission to deny Peskyís proposal. The P&Zís primary concern was that the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" provision allows a building to be deemed out of sight if it is well screened by vegetation. The P&Z pointed out that such screening may not be permanent.

Calling the proposal "not extremely critical at this juncture," Commissioner Dennis Wright seconded Michaelís motion to deny. Commissioner Mary Ann Mix was absent. Wright suggested that the issue be taken up in a more relaxed fashion at a later date, presumably when Mix is present.

 

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