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Blackfoot Farms Gravel Pit Application

Decision Makers: Teton County, ID Board of County Commissioners

Topic: Blackfoot Farms Gravel Pit Application

August 27, 2009
Teton County BOCC
89 North Main Street
Driggs, Idaho 83422

RE: Letter in support of P&Z’s recommendation for denial.

Dear Commission Members:

Before you tonight is the decision whether to uphold the Planning & Zoning Commission’s (P&Z) recommended denial of Blackfoot Farms’ conditional use permit (CUP) application to reopen the Peacock gravel pit after almost ten (10) years of inactivity.

Pertinent background facts

The Peacock gravel pit was purchased by Blackfoot Farms back in June of 2008. At the time of Blackfoot’s purchase, this gravel pit was on its way out. Having not been used as a gravel pit since 2000, it had grown over with trees and native vegetation, and the neighborhood was becoming increasingly residential.  A reclamation plan had been approved by the Idaho Department of Lands back in 2006. As you may recall, Teton County auctioned this parcel to Blackfoot Farms in order to raise funds for the new county courthouse being built in cooperation with Huntsman Springs. The 2006 county pre-auction appraisal for this parcel stated that its “highest and best use” was for a residential home site.  The county’s notice of auction for this parcel expressly warranted that:

“All seven parcels listed above are being sold “AS IS” with the County making no representations as to the condition, suitability, or allowed uses.” 

At last month’s P&Z hearing, ten (10) neighbors testified in opposition to this CUP, stating that the neighborhood was entirely too residential for this gravel pit, and they were already unduly burdened by the noise, dust, traffic, and safety risks posed by the adjacent state gravel pit. Eight (8) letters in opposition to this CUP were also submitted into the record, echoing similar concerns about their children’s safety and quality of life. 

After much deliberation, P&Z recommended denial of this CUP because (1) the location was incompatible with other uses in the neighborhood, (2) it would place an undue burden on County services, (3) it posed health and safety risks to the community, and (4) this CUP conflicted with the goals and policies of the Teton County 2004-2010 Comprehensive Plan (Comprehensive Plan).

It is important to keep these salient facts in mind when considering the potential for reopening this gravel pit.

State and County requirements for granting a CUP

Our county ordinances mandate that the location of the CUP shall be compatible with other uses in the general neighborhood. (T.C.C. 8-6-1-B-7-a) Both state law and county ordinances provide that issuance of a CUP is entirely discretionary, but must be predicated on a finding by this commission the CUP will not be a drain on essential services in the vicinity. (I.C. §67-6512(a) and T.C.C. 8-6-1-B-7-b) And finally, both state law and county ordinances require the proposed use not conflict with the Comprehensive Plan. (T.C.C. 8-6-1-B-7-d and I.C. § 67-6512(a))

P&Z correctly determined that this is a neighborhood where gravel pits are on their way out, and houses are on their way in

There is currently an active state-run gravel pit abutting this parcel on the east side, but the remaining lifespan of this pit is unknown. However, recent activity at the state pit has been intense, and the gravel trucks share 400N with the residents of Chilly Waters, Valley View Subdivision, and Four Peaks Estates. At the P&Z hearing, neighboring residents testified that every day, the impacts from this pit ripple throughout the neighborhood, as noisy trucks rumble down 400N, stirring up intense dust with every trip they make. They feared that it was unsafe for their children to even ride bicycles on the road. The residents expressed concern that this new CUP will exacerbate the currently dangerous situation, and they demanded a feasible plan for mitigating the numerous additional impacts that this CUP will impose on their already-suffering neighborhood.

The residents also testified that the Peacock pit has been inactive for so long, subdivisions have sprung up all around it: Chilly Waters to the south, Elkridge to the east, Stillwater Ranch to the north, and Carrington Crossing (a pending application) to the north. The Peacock pit has been inactive the whole time this neighborhood has taken root, and the property has grown over to a point where it lacks the industrial look and feel of a gravel pit. This is truly a neighborhood where gravel pits are on their way out, and houses are on their way in.

Relying on these facts in the record, P&Z correctly determined that this CUP (1) was incompatible with the general neighborhood, (2) lacked a plan for mitigating impacts to public services, and (3) was injurious to the community’s health and safety. 

P&Z correctly determined that this pit would conflict with the comprehensive plan

After considering all of the testimony and facts in the record, P&Z also correctly concluded granting a CUP for a gravel pit in this residential location conflicted with the Comprehensive Plan. More specifically, this CUP would conflict the following provisions of the Comprehensive Plan:

Implementation 2: Encourage the development of small, light industrial activities in appropriate locations that do not have negative impacts on the environment and the health and welfare of residents. (Page 28)

Policy 2: It is recognized that views across the valley from the main transportation routes are integral to the rural experience and a sense of open space in Teton Valley. (Page 30)

Implementation 17: As the county continues to grow, additional industrial uses shall be buffered with uses that protect surrounding landowners. (Page 33)

Policy 4: Conserve and protect esthetic values including scenic open spaces, quiet neighborhoods, dark night skies, clean air, safe communities, and accessible public lands. (Page 35)

P&Z’s recommendation is valid and supported by ample facts in the record

It is not often that P&Z recommends denial of a CUP application, so please take note of the circumstances in the record that prompted the commission to conclude that the Peacock Pit simply should not be re-opened. This was not a flippant decision, but one brought about by considerable debate and deliberation. The commission was also procedurally correct: they applied the facts in the record to the state and county requirements for granting a CUP. They recommended denial because this CUP simply did not meet the necessary criteria – a decision that should be supported by this Board.

Thank you for considering my letter, and keep up the good work.

        Anna Trentadue
        VARD Program / Staff Attorney

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