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Canyon Farms continued again

Canyon Farms is a 15-lot subdivision proposed on 348 acres along the rim of the Teton River Canyon out on the north end of the valley by River Rim Ranch.  This property was previously included in the 6,400-acre J Lazy H Ranch PUD proposal, but that application has since been withdrawn and developer Jeff Russell is instead moving forward with this smaller, traditional subdivision with 20-acre lots.  The land is zoned Ag20.

This subdivision is the first to seek approval under the new subdivision and PUD ordinances.  As should be expected, this first application is highlighting the kinks in the new process that still need to be worked out.  

Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG) has taken a great interest in this project because of its location in relationship to critical wildlife habitat.  IDFG would like to see the new wildlife ordinances consistently applied in such a way as to effectively protect wildlife. One IDFG representative astutely pointed out that the developer has done extensive habitat restoration and wildlife studies across much of his 6,400-acre parcel, but very little of that work was done on the 348-acres being considered for this subdivision.  

The developer Jeff Russell expressed his sincere desire to continue working with IDFG to mitigate for wildlife impacts, but he did feel that he had met the requirements of the ordinances and that a detailed wildlife analysis was not required by ordinance. He emphasized that all of these additional steps were merely voluntary on his part.

VARD commented on the expense of providing public services to developments located in the far reaches of the valley. We also agreed that the developer has put a lot of work into restoring the habitat on his thousands of acres of land, but that it was important to focus on the piece of land being considered for development at this time.

The land in question has been intensively farmed for decades, but it abuts incredibly valuable habitat along the Teton River. The change in use from agriculture to residential will undeniably change the landscape.  In order to apply a common-sense reading of the wildlife ordinances, the decision-makers must take that change in the landscape into account.

After much discussion, P&Z voted to continue this application, and asked Mr. Russell to address IDFG’s mitigations and produce a cleaned-up open space management plan. Alice Stevenson voted against this motion because she did not think the ordinance required the applicant to do this work.

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