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Western Heritage Timber

Decision Makers: Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission

Topic: Western Heritage Timber

August 21, 2009

Driggs City Planning & Zoning
PO Box 48
60 South Main Street
Driggs, Idaho 83422

RE: VARD’s comment letter for the new Western Heritage submittals.

Dear Commission Members:
I respectfully re-submit all of my comments in the August 4th, 2009 letter I wrote to this commission, and I would like to add the following for your consideration:

1. The Ford garage is the perfect location for Western Heritage . . . . to operate a sales office and show room.

This commission has worked hard to craft conditions and find a way to make the applicant’s business “fit” a C3 zoning designation. This is an all-too-familiar process where complicated conditions are imposed on a CUP in an effort to mitigate the negative impacts to the neighborhood. Over time however, we have all seen that these kind of conditions are impossible to enforce, leave the business owner feeling micro-managed by the decision makers, and sadly, often fail to buffer the negative impacts to the neighbors.
The solution here is very simple: Deny this CUP application and require Western Heritage Timbers to fit within the permitted uses of C3 zoning.  

There is no doubt that Western Heritage’s sales office and show room would be permitted uses in the C3 zoning designation. This zone even allows for Western Heritage to store lumber materials within the Ford garage itself. These are ideal uses for the Ford garage because they fit neatly within the zone, will not injure neighboring landowners, and give Western Heritage the freedom to operate within these parameters while being free from government oversight. It would be a win-win situation for everyone.

2. Cui Bono? (Who Benefits?)
Who benefits from denial of this CUP?

Obviously, the surrounding residences and businesses benefit because they are spared the negative impacts of this lumberyard. I even think that Western Heritage will benefit because they are given a clear, concise directive as to their allowed uses on the property.  
But there is a benefit even bigger than that.

Denying this CUP will benefit the entire community of Driggs because it shows that the decision makers value their own ordinances and planning process. Denying this CUP will bolster consumer confidence that you can rely on Driggs’ zoning and land use classifications when purchasing land in town. And finally, denying this CUP sends the message that Driggs will not allow their carefully constructed community plan to be derailed by the “act first, ask later” approach to municipal approvals.  

Conversely, if this CUP is granted, you are sending a loud and clear message that the community’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning classifications are meaningless. This particular neighborhood has been specifically zoned Mixed-use where quiet businesses provide daily commercial services to area residents. This did not happen by fluke. Rather, it was the result of the Driggs community coming together in their Comprehensive Planning process with a goal to make this area a pedestrian friendly, live-work neighborhood. More importantly, the Comprehensive Plan expressly designates the Commercial Land Use Areas to the far north and east of this property as the place where lumberyards should be located.  Driggs even created a 197-acre Manufacturing zone just north of the airport specifically created for uses like “specialty manufacturing such as Bergmeyer Furniture, Drawknife billiards, etc., with high value-added products”  – which perfectly describes Western Heritage.

If all of this community planning is just disregarded, and a lumberyard is permitted right in the middle of an area where it simply does not belong, even though there are other zones expressly designated for lumberyards, the negative effect of this decision will ripple through the community. The public will concluded that Driggs is a town without process and without planning.  This CUP approval will frighten off future land investors because they will see that no area in Driggs is “safe” from incompatible land use approvals. In a poor economy like the present, Driggs simply cannot afford to abandon the community’s plan for the future.   

3. Conclusion: This is a square peg in a round hole.  

You could condition this CUP to death, but the fact is, it’s a square peg trying to fit in a round hole even though there is a square hole right up the road.  There is a designated location for lumberyards, and it’s not in the Ford garage. While a lumberyard cannot realistically be conditioned to “fit” within this neighborhood, the permitted uses in the C3 zone would allow Western Heritage to run a fantastic sales office and showroom on the property. By denying this CUP, the applicant receives a clear directive to comply with the C3 zoning, and the community’s hard-fought Comprehensive Plan gets the support that it deserves. To me that is a win-win.  

Thank you once again for all of your hard work.


            Anna Trentadue
            VARD Program / Staff Attorney


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