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Commission denies Cove Springs development
By Gary Stivers
Thursday, October 18, 2007


The scene Thursday morning in Blaine county's second-floor hearing room as the Board of Commissioners made findings denying the proposed Cove Springs development.

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners Thursday morning denied the subdivision application of the 308-lot Cove Springs development six miles southeast of Bellevue for several reasons stemming from the county's comprehensive plan including the development's impact on public services and the impact of so many new residents on the Bellevue Triangle's agricultural operations.

The developers will have to await the formal, written denial contained in the findings of fact, before deciding what to do next. Those findings may come out near the end of the month of a little later if their proper preparation needs more time.

Project attorney Marty Flannes again called for mediation in the application and while Commission Chairman Tom Bowman said he wasn't prepared to answer that on the spot, Flannes later added the county can't say only that the project does not comply with the county's standards, they have also to say how the project could comply.


Story continues below

The developers of the proposed Cove Springs with attorney Marty Flannes second from left.

Mountain Overlay

In a point-by-point analysis of the project continued from Wednesday's deliberations, commissioners made an early finding just 20 minutes into the day noting that several lots are within the 2004 determination of the county's Mountain Overlay District.

"It's easy," Bowman began. "This application vested in the 2004 rules and we have to use those 2004 rules. I would say that the application is not in compliance with the [MOD] standard but could be if the lots were removed from the Mountain Overlay District. I do not think it's appropriate for the applicant to use [MOD] map that was developed in 2006 for this 2004 application."

Several speakers at the October 4 public hearing also said it's unfair for the development to apply 2004 rules to the development and to rely on the less-restrictive 2006 Mountain Overlay District.

The roads issue

The next loss was a crucial threshold standard, which cannot be appealed.

In the Blaine County Code , Chapter 10 (Subdivision Regulations) Section 6 (Planned Unit Developments) has a subsection 8 (standards of evaluation) in which line A9 states "The developer will finance the improvement of the road network outside of the PUD where traffic generated by the PUD's increased densities make such improvements necessary."

Commissioners then noted the $100,000 payment and additional $42,000 per her thereafter proposed in the application were insufficient to remedy the impacts on Baseline Road, Pero Road, East Glendale Road and others in the Bellevue Triangle.

"I do not believe it's in compliance with the standard," Commissioner Larry Schoen began. "The improvements that will be necessary will see a diminution of level of service on Gannett Road and there's been almost no discussion about the issues to the roads networks in the area and improvements that would be necessary to those roads."

"Does not comply," Bowman confirmed.

The ranch site today, along the east side of Gannett Road.

Impacts on surrounding uses

Blaine County Code 10-6-8A.3 mandates "The uses proposed within the PUD will not be detrimental to present and potential surrounding uses. "

Commissioner Sarah Michael found Cove Springs fails that one.

"I agree with the majority of the planning and zoning commission that even with changes, that it will be detrimental to surrounding wildlife and detrimental to the surrounding agricultural uses. I find noncompliance," Michael said.

Commissioner Schoen said the development would prove a negative impact on the City of Carey.

"The impacts would become even greater if, as is proposed, commercial uses were allowed in the heart of this PUD," Schoen said. "I don't any way in which other people could be restricted from using those facilities, especially if you're bringing in people from the outside to use the park, to make that truly a park that benefits the whole community. I think the development of this area or if it ultimately becomes a town –which I think it will- it will impact surrounding uses."

A less-than superior design

Despite the praise Cove Springs has won for its integration of more- and less-dense development, its many pedestrian walkways its wastewater treatment plant, Commissioner Schoen found the negatives outweighed the positives.

"These applicants have in many ways set wonderful standards for development on that level and they're to be commended for that," Schoen said. "Fundamentally, however, the design and intention of putting an urban type of development in this area is an inferior concept. I find also that homes in the Mountain Overlay District is not superior. I have long opposed affordable housing units in the agricultural area so far from existing jobs and services inferior. …The impacts of this development on surrounding uses –covered before- I don't find to be superior design. The conservation benefits -I highly commend applicants for that but I do not believe that those are justified by the development."

Bowman agreed.

"There are admirable points to this proposal," Bowman noted, "[including] achieving water balance, the MBR wastewater treatment facility, the wide variety of housing types, the recreational amenities, the sensitivity to wildlife. However, the walkability feature touted by the applicant, I believe, lives in a vacuum of services really essential to a walkable community and it disregards how auto-dependent this proposal will be."

Bowman said the subdivision, at buildout, will generate one million car trips per year of about 10 million road miles if the average trip is to and from Hailey.

Schoen again brought up the prospect of a new town.

"The proposal is to create a town-type of development without any of the concurrent services and uses that go along with that for this level of density." Schoen said.


Water provided a win for the developers via a 2-1 split among the commission. Schoen, a south-valley farmer, attempted –again- to explain the violation he saw in transferring irrigation water into domestic uses. Commissioners Bowman and Michael argued confusion could result from a conflict of the transfer idea with the state-mandated right of every homeowner to irrigate half an acre around their home.

The issue was resolved over Schoen's objections.

"I'm deeply disappointed," Schoen began. "I believe that both of you have supported me in trying to learn more about water issues because both of you have identified water issues as a critical resource issue for our valley. I'm sorry I'm unable to convince you."


Subdivisions and PUDs need to pass all standards in the county's ordinances and all built to date have done so. The failure of one requires remedy before a subdivision can be created.

Flannes' assertion the county needs to point the direction in which remedies may lie may provide the basis for an appeal to the 5th District Court. Nothing happens prior to the formalization of the county's denial in its findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Chair Bowman said the findings may be ready by the end of the month.

Anyone with thoughts on the denial of the Cove Springs development is invited to participate in Sun Valley Online's blogs , where the Wood River Valley discusses issues of the day.


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