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For the week of October 1 - 7, 2003

News

Commissioners
ditch commercial
development in
housing ordinance

Rezone criteria also deleted


Prevention of commercial development outside the cities "hasnít been a detriment to the county. Itís something that makes the county damn special."

ó DENNIS WRIGHT, Blaine County Commissioner


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commission informally decided last week that a package of affordable housing ordinances it is deliberating should not allow limited commercial development outside of Blaine Countyís five incorporated cities.

Commissioner Dennis Wright said commercial development of any type would first require an amendment to the countyís comprehensive plan. That goes for small commercial enterprises, like inconspicuous delis or convenience stores that might be included as part of an affordable housing project, he said.

"Iím saying this is the cart before the horse," he said.

Prevention of commercial development outside the cities "hasnít been a detriment to the county. Itís something that makes the county damn special," he added.

Wright and Commissioner Mary Ann Mix agreed that sections of a proposed Community Housing-Residential Zoning District Ordinance should be deleted to prevent commercial enterprises from being included as parts of affordable housing projects.

Commissioner Sarah Michael, however, said something like a small convenience store could help cut down on highway trips by affordable housing community residents who, otherwise, would have to travel to one of the countyís cities for something as simple as a gallon of milk.

"It allows (developers) to be creative," she said, envisioning a small post office, store and day care center, as an example of what might be possible if the language was retained in the draft ordinance.

"Itís about amenities, not about creating strip businesses," she said.

The commission also informally agreed that proposed criteria designed to determine areas that are suitable for affordable housing rezones should be deleted from the package of ordinances.

"This will still be a very discretionary process," Wright said. "Itís still going to be a rezone request, and there will be all of this public process and deliberations. I guess I just donít see a need for it."

The part of the package to be deleted established criteria the county might use to establish areas that qualify for an affordable housing rezone.

Under the draft ordinance, rezone applicants would have to have demonstrated that their properties were either adjacent to an incorporated city or town site or within a designated area of city impact, or have densities similar to what already exists.

A third criterion stated that a property available for a rezone could be adjacent to existing densities that are similar to those proposed.

"I think the process is thorough enough to weed out the proposals that are poorly designed or located," Wright said.

Commissioners began Aug. 21 to sift through the three affordable housing ordinances, which the county planning and zoning commission spent two years drafting.

If adopted, the ordinances would work together to allow portions of the county to be rezoned for higher densitiesóup to ten times the countyís highest allowed densities. They would also provide a framework under which individual projects could be approved.

Commissioners scheduled a second workshop meeting for Oct. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to continue hammering out details associated with the policy changes.

Blaine County Planning Administrator Linda Haavic pointed out that any changes considered in the workshop meetings will be noticed for another public hearing before final adoption is considered.

 

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