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Wednesday, June 16, 2004


County considers Ohio Gulch subdivision

Concerns about winter elk range encroachment raised

Express Staff Writer

The possibility of encroachment into winter elk habitat dominated discussion last week of a proposed subdivision off Ohio Gulch Road before the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Ohio Gulch resident Brian McCoy would like to create the 17-lot Bluegrouse Ridge subdivision on an 80-acre parcel straddling Ohio Gulch Road.

Fifteen of the lots would be developed off a newly created private road to the south of Ohio Gulch Road. McCoy already has his own home in that parcel.

The remaining two lots would be developed north of the road. One would contain a duplex, both of whose units would be sold as deed-restricted affordable housing.

Engineer Dick Fosbury presented the proposal during a P&Z meeting Thursday. However, lack of time and a stack of late-arriving documents prevented the P&Z from issuing a ruling, and the matter was continued to July 8.

Neither P&Z members nor the four local residents who testified appeared to find much to criticize in the proposal.

"Because of our hillsides, there are very few places that development can get done," said commissioner Chip Bailey. "This is one of the places that development can occur."

Peter Jackson, a resident of the nearby Heatherlands subdivision, called the proposal "a wonderful addition to the area."

Concerns were raised, however, about the areaís use by elk in the winter and by migrating deer. David Parrish, Magic Valley regional supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, had submitted a letter recommending that no development be allowed on the property north of Ohio Gulch Road.

"The loss of native vegetation and subsequent increase in human disturbance will displace elk from important winter habitat," Parrish wrote in the September, 2003 letter.

Fosbury told the commissioners that he and McCoy were sensitive to that issue, and had situated the two lots north of Ohio Gulch Road on level ground to avoid interference with the elk, which generally congregate on the hillside to the north.

Fosbury also pointed out the irony of the Fish and Game commissionís objection to the proposed subdivision after the Idaho Attorney Generalís office had obtained a court decision granting it an exemption to county zoning law to open a gravel mine on state land just up the road.

"Itís almost as if the state of Idaho doesnít talk to the state of Idaho," Fosbury said.

Discussion of the proposal focused on two additional concerns increased traffic on Ohio Gulch Road and the possibility of groundwater contamination by the nearby, and uphill, county landfill.

Fosbury suggested that the county condemn a small corner of a Heatherlands lot to allow a curve on the road to be straightened. He said the road itself would not need to encroach on the lot, but the borrow pit and snow storage would. The alternative, he said, would be to move the road to the other side, requiring a cut into a hillside.

Regarding the water supply, Bob Erickson, environmental health specialist with South Central District Health, said samples had shown no groundwater contamination. However, he said, "whether or not something is going to happen in another 10, 20 or 30 years down the road, who knows?"


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