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Zone change request north of Driggs denied; Lonesome Dove Subdivision triggers Groundwater Protection Ordinance

There were two hearings of interest to VARD at this meeting.

Zone Change request from residential to commercial
The P&Z heard a request to change the zoning for 5 acres along Highway 33 from residential (RR2.5) to downtown commercial (C-2).  The piece of property in question is located north of Driggs next to the Pinnacle Real Estate offices and across from the Drawknife.  The applicant was vague in terms of what use she envisioned for the zone.  The applicant mentioned retail and condominiums as possibilities but offered no other definitive information.

There were no comments in favor or in neutral for the application. Five members of the public spoke in opposition, as did VARD.  Once again VARD pointed out that without a Projected Land Use Map (PLUM) it would be premature to grant a zone change.  VARD cited the Idaho Supreme Court ruling on the Sprenger, Grubb, & Associates case that involved Hailey, Idaho.  In a nutshell, the court said that since the Hailey comprehensive plan did not contain all the components required by the Local Land Use Planning Act (in this case a Projected Land Use Map), Hailey could not make zone changes without that mechanism in place.

VARD also opposed the zone change on the basis that this property is located in the scenic corridor, problematic in itself, and that granting a rezone in this location, miles outside the impact area, would be counter to the county’s comprehensive plan. In the plan it very clearly states that C-2 commercial should be within city limits or be next to the city impact area, which was not the case in this application. As one member of the public stated, this application was really about retail commercial (C-1) which absolutely does not belong in the proposed location. The P&Z unanimously recommended turning down the application.

Lonesome Dove Subdivision – water quality issues
The other item of interest was the Lonesome Dove subdivision application. This subdivision is located in the western part of the valley in the vicinity of Breckenridge Road and 500 West. The big question on this application revolved around it being located in what the county defines as an area of critical concern. In this case it is located in the wetland overlay area of the county. When an application is located in these areas the county requires that the applicant gather more information so that the P&Z will be able to take into account factors related to the sensitivity of the land.

In this case a wetland delineation is needed. The applicant had commissioned the study but at the time of the hearing it had not been completed and thus was not available to the commissioners or the public.  As has been discussed many times, applications should not be looked at piece meal.   The application should have been continued to another meeting when all the wetland information is complete.  

Another issue had to do with the requirements of the county’s Groundwater Protection Ordinance.  One of the test holes dug on the property has had water within 10 feet of the surface. Under our new Groundwater Protection Ordinance, this situation would require a nutrient pathogen (NP) level 1 study to be done. An NP study is a modeling tool that shows whether the proposed densities would potentially harm groundwater.  Depending on the results of the study, a more advanced wastewater treatment system may be required in order to preserve water quality.  

The P&Z commissioners discussed whether an NP study should be required because “only one hole showed evidence of water.” There is a provision in the groundwater protection ordinance that allows the developer to appeal the need to conduct an NP study based on evidence that one is not needed.  The applicant has the right to pursue that option, but VARD believes strongly that when the conditions exist that require an NP study, as laid out in the county ordinance, the P&Z should require it without reservation.

Why is there resistance on the part of some P&Z members to requiring an NP study? It is their role to protect public health and safety and an NP study is a tool to accomplish that. In other parts of the state these studies have become commonplace and the development community has no problem with this type of request.  The P&Z should embrace this new tool and use it where appropriate. The intent of the ground water ordinance is clear and it’s the responsibility of the P&Z to enforce it.

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