Monday, April 23, 2007

Re-zoning Mining Claims

The County is proposing to rezone about 300 privately owned mining claims in the Snake River and Ten Mile basins.

The backcountry zoning changes the rules for building on mining claims, reducing setbacks from 50 feet to 25 feet. It allows property owners to access their lots via existing roads, even if they aren't up to county standards.

Structure size is also limited in the backcountry zone, ranging from 900 square feet on a typical five-acre lot, up to 2,400 square feet on a 35-acre parcel, as well accessory structures like garages and sheds up to 500 square feet.

The move to rezone the private properties is in keeping with county and basin master plans, which aim to "ensure that growth occurs in appropriate locations and that our rural mountain character is maintained."

The basic idea is to limit backcountry homes and steer development toward areas deemed more suitable for development, while still leaving room for development of smaller cabins on backcountry parcels. The backcountry zoning works in tandem with a transfer of development rights (TDR) mechanism that enables owners of backcountry parcels to sell development rights at about $40,000 per unit, explained county planning director Jim Curnutte. That gives owners another option, he explained.

Similar zoning has been in place in the Upper Blue Basin for about six years, where about 60 development rights have been sold out of the backcountry to a TDR bank, Curnutte said.

"It's worked so well in the Upper Blue to maintain the desired backcountry feel," Curnutte said.

The number of requests for minimum lot size variances dropped, and there have only been two building permits issued in the backcountry zone, both for smaller sized homes, he said.

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