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Get involved in zoning change

Posted Wednesday, January 21, 2009, at 9:54 AM

Next Monday, at 6 p.m. in the county commissioner's room, the county will hold a public hearing on its proposed new zoning ordinances for the county.

I can't encourage enough anyone who has concerns about the county's future land uses to attend the hearing and offer their comments (the ordinances can be found on the county's website).

Personally, I think the county planning and zoning commission overall did a good job in developing such a massive revision of the ordinances. But the P&Z and the county commissioners both know that no plan is perfect. They are genuinely looking forward to hearing the comments that they hope will fix any holes they've missed, or which will adjust the rules they're proposing.

One of the areas I focused on when I was looking at the ordinances, and one on which I have had several phone call comments, concerns the possibility of locating a nuclear power plant in Elmore County.

Now most of the county is/will be zoned Ag. But it is in the nature of such land that that's where most growth will occur. Ultimately, much of that land will eventually become the home of some other use, such as residential or industrial. That's just the way things are. The new ordinances reflect that reality, and some uses, such as the nuclear power plant, which formerly would have required a rezone and then a conditional use permit, will now just require a CU in the Ag zone, removing a layer of bureaucracy and paperwork. Those uses are found in the "matrix" of allowed and conditional uses in the zoning ordinance. If you don't read anything else, look at the matrix chart.

Some of the allowed or conditional uses make a lot of sense. A small private airport, a dog kennel, stables, even fuel storage facilities, seem compatible with what would likely remain adjacent agricultural uses. It makes sense to remove the rezone requirements.

And even some electrical generating facilities, such as wind power, solar power and hydrothermal power plants, also would seem to have minimal impacts.

But I think it may be appropriate for some things to require the rezone as well. Coal-fired power plants, nuclear plants, concrete manufacturing plants, even some plants that process agricultural products, for example, have much greater impacts -- their "footprint" of impact on surrounding land and quality of life is considerable. Most of those examples, I believe, should still require some form of industrial use rezone (as well as CUs) before being approved.

So I would suggest the county seriously review the conditional uses that would be allowed in an Ag zone without a rezone, and make some alterations to the use matrix. I also believe that some uses, such as a nuclear power plant or coal-fired power plant, should have their own line in the matrix, rather than simple falling in a general, and vaguely defined, power production facility definition.

I'm also a little concerned about the lack of hazardous material control in industrial zones and where the county is hoping to direct industrial uses, in general. Mainly, the county would like to see them located in the Simco Road area. In many ways, it's not a bad area, except for one thing -- water.

Water is the limiting factor for all land uses in Idaho, and as the county and state grows, the availability of water is rapidly approaching a finite limit. The Simco Road area is either in or near what has already been described as a critical groundwater area, where uses already are restricted. And since typical industrial uses tend to use large amounts of water, that may not be the best place to try and direct such development.

Industrial uses typically bring well-paying jobs that the county can surely use, but it seems to me that the Simco Road area, as the preferred place for such uses, would impose an unnecessary limit on such growth. It wouldn't be long before the ability to provide water in that area would be exhausted, and other areas of the county would have to be designated and opened up for such future uses.

The county should start looking now at some other appropriate area to develop as an industrial core. Off the top of my head, I would think somewhere near a rail line between Mountain Home and Glenns Ferry (so both communities could benefit from the jobs that would be created), should be designated on the county's comprehensive plan as the preferred location for future industrial development.

That's my two cents worth. There are people out there who've probably got three cents worth of ideas.

But like I said last week, now is the ideal time to bring those ideas and concerns forward. Over the next year, the county expects to make a number of changes in the ordinances it currently is proposing. Getting your ideas in now would be a good time and place to start.

Because in order to have a government "for the people," you need to first have one "of and by" the people. That means getting involved. And you'd be pleasantly surprised at how often local governments actually pay attention to a good idea.


Comments
Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

I would have to ask...do you live in the city or the county? In the city, people live in subdivisions, for the most part. In the county, we buy land---normally at least 5-10 acres. Should the people in the county not be afforded the same protection under the law as people in the city when it comes to what is ALLOWED to be built next to or around their homes? If I build on my 5-10 acres it would stand to reason that I do not want 200 houses built in my back yard or next door to me---that is why I am out in the "country." So, while it may be okay to you that all of this pure, farmland is being made into homes and proposed nuclear power plants, etc. it is NOT okat to those of us that have made the choice to move out to the country. Why is it okay to convert farms to mega subdivisions? If it is zoned as Ag, it should remain Ag. This is why there are zoning ordinances. So, while you enjoy your protection of life in the city---I deserve protection from career politicians allowing a nuclear plant next door to my home. Industry does not belong near farm crops or homes just like a gas station does not belong next to your nice, new home. Common sense should at some point prevail in Elmore County---at some point soon I hope. If we make it "easy" for garbage industry to end up in Elmore County, that is all we will have here. Is it really worth it? And what about county regulations on toxic or hazardous waste? Maybe have that plan in place before we agree to all of this other garbage.

I hope that everyone will take part in these hearings. Most people research an area, not just their (or where they plan to live) section of town. P & Z did not make these changes to protect the people---they did it to ALLOW industry where it should not be. Remember that when you go to purchase that property in the country surrounded by farm land. Under this plan, you could end up with a fuel facility or nuclear plant next door to you or in your back yard. P & Z and the ECC's should work for the people. When exactly does that start?

-- Posted by OpinionMissy on Wed, Jan 21, 2009, at 10:52 AM

I don't make comments often, and I try to keep it on a positive note. I prefer to try to honor what I feel are enthusiastic efforts by the children of our future.

I have to agree, at least in part, with OP. I live in the county, because I value my peaceful country life. I moved there for a reason. I raised my children there and instilled in them the same values of caring for their animals and learning to treasure a loving family and our land. Our Pure Farmlands. As the years go by, I worry more and more about the zoning changes. Right now, I have fields around me, and that is what I wish for. If the zoning changes, (and I can see the temptation), due to large amounts of money being offered for the land, I know I"m a small voice that won't be heard. I KNOW PZ thinks the money is where the value is at. If this happens, I can imagine several duplexes or apartments going in right behind my horse field. Those folks aren't going to like the dust, the activities...etc. What then? Sure they will say now that it won't be a problem for them, but it would be. Or imagine that a little child crawls into the midst of my horses and (God forbid) gets kicked? I would be blamed, and I woiuld feel responsible. I would do everything in my power to not let that happen, but I'm not there every moment of the day.

Please be involved. Later might be too late.

-- Posted by jessiemiller on Thu, Jan 22, 2009, at 9:31 AM


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