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Sky View subdivision; Ironwood PUD; Construction before final approval of developments; County Engineer; Reserve at Badger Creek PUD; Driggs Centre Business Park not heard

Board of County Commissioners, Public Hearings, Thursday, August 16th

This is not a comprehensive report but rather highlights issues identified by VARD as important to the questions of responsible development and sustainable use of natural resources.  

Sky View Subdivision

In the deliberation on this standard 2.5-acre subdivision, Commissioner Stevenson said she thought that the county needed to require that garbage be covered as per the letter submitted by Idaho Fish and Game.  Commissioner Trupp initially disagreed saying that he felt that was stepping over the line of what government is supposed to do: “Soon we’ll be telling them what color the house has to be. It’s overkill.”  However, the developer’s agreement is the only legally binding way to require developers to enact measures recommended by Idaho Fish and Game to reduce human-wildlife conflicts, among other things.  Eventually the two commissioners were able to agree on a motion that approved the final plat on the condition that the recommendations of Fish and Game are included in the developer’s agreement.  

Ironwood PUD Phase II final plat

This PUD is located south of 200 South and off of 100 East.  The development was recently sold to a developer who combined what had been phases 2,3 and 4 to be completed as one phase 2.  The developer was represented by Jeff Snyder of Nelson Engineering who told the board that construction had already begun on Phase II of the development.  

There was no public comment. Commissioner Trupp asked the developer about a letter from DEQ that stated that the design, drawing and specifications for the well house and domestic water were not approved.  The letter said that the separation between the non-potable lines and the wells was inadequate.  The owners were represented by Norm Gifford who said that they had the permits for the wells, which they would drill next week but that he would go to DEQ the next day to deal with the other issues.

Commissioner Stevenson raised several questions regarding the comprehensive plan analysis in the application.  She said the application didn’t account for the impact to roads and cost to the county that vehicle trips by Ironwood residents would cause.  She noted that by the applicant’s own estimates the impact to the schools would be very significant. The PUD’s pathways are only internal to the development but that the comprehensive plan talks about pathways for interconnectivity with surrounding properties and serving public use.  Norm Gifford disagreed with Commissioner Stevenson saying the residents were the public.  Commissioner Stevenson said that looking at the intent of pathways in the comp plan was something that the board should look at more carefully in the future.   
The BOCC approved the PUD on the condition that they have DEQ approval on the outstanding issues.

Construction before final approval
During the Ironwood deliberation, Commissioner Stevenson also asked why construction had begun on the second phase if approval had not been granted. This was a recurring theme throughout the evening.  Administrator Hibbert explained that under the previous administration it had been customary to begin construction after preliminary plat approval. VARD has always found this problematic as there may be issues left unaddressed or unresolved at the preliminary level and the public and decision makers ability to request changes to a development application at the final approval stage is undermined if much of the development is already a reality on the ground (see VARD’s letter on Reserve at Badger Creek below for more on this topic).  

Numerous people waiting for the Valley Centre application sat through several other applications in which this issue of construction before final approval was discussed.  When it was announced that Driggs Centre would not be heard due to problems with the public notice, one of the members of the public pleaded “Can you at least make sure that they don’t start construction before it is approved?”  Obviously this points to the fact that neighbors of developments feel disenfranchised by this policy.   

County engineer discussion
Another question that was discussed at length was the role of the county in inspections required through the construction of developments.   Up to now all inspections have been done by the developer’s own engineers.  Now that the county is hiring an engineer the county can choose to have checks done for themselves.  The discussion led to the idea that the engineer would probably be best used for checks pre-construction, mid-project and at project completion.

Reserve at Badger Creek final plat
This development is located in the Badger Creek area near 50 West and Badger Creek Road with 22 lots on 71 acres.  The topography of this parcel presented some challenges for the developer.  The lower portion of the property, where it is adjacent to the road, is flat and there is a steep, heavily vegetated slope leading up to a bench.  There are lots adjacent to the road as well as several up on the bench.  The subject of VARD’s letter (which is posted on the website under Public Comments) and one of the main concerns of a neighbor, Andy Steele, was the road cut across the steep, heavily vegetated part of the property, which the project engineer, Jeff Snyder, identified as a wildlife corridor.   This roadwork is controversial for the unsightly scar it left in the hillside, the fact that there were other ways to access the bench, and its impact on wildlife. To top it off the roadwork was done before final plat approval, which as we explained above is customary but contrary to county code.

Andy Steel, a resident of the area, read a letter in which he raised two additional issues.  The first had to do with fire protection and apparent contradictions between the applicant’s plans for using fire ponds and wells and Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) policy.   Mr. Steel also quoted a local water master as saying that he had concerns over how fire ponds were being filled.   It is illegal to fill fire ponds with irrigation water unless a permit has been acquired but it seems that many subdivisions are doing just that.  

The second issue raised by Mr. Steele was the design of Reserve at Badger Creek, and in particular, the density.  He pointed out that most of the nearby subdivisions have lots sizes that are greater than 2.5 acres and therefore argued that this development was not in harmony with the neighborhood and undermined the rural character of the area.  

Other issues raised in the commissioner’s deliberations included that Fish and Game had sent a strongly worded letter saying that the development would add to the fragmentation of the corridor and that at least one condition required by the P&Z had not been met, which had to do with putting a deed restriction on the wildlife corridor.  

The BOCC passed a motion to table the final decision until the board could obtain a letter from IDWR on water and the fire ponds, documentation that the developer’s agreement includes the 8 points of recommendation from Idaho Fish and Game and documentation of a deed restriction on the wildlife corridor.

Driggs Centre Business Park
Although Driggs Centre, a proposed industrial park along 100 E, was on the agenda it was not heard due to the fact that it was noticed as PUD plat hearing and not a zone change as well.  We will let you know when this is back on the agenda.  

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