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Two back-to-back public hearings at the Salmon City Council’s May 21 meeting resulted in granting vacation and de-annexation requests by John and Anna Little.

The first hearing dealt with asking the city to vacate a portion of a 20 foot strip of public right-of-way which fronts the north side of parcels A-E, in blocks 19 and 26 in the Gilmore Addition.

John Little said that acquisition of the strip would increase their owned acreage enough to create four saleable lots which meet the one acre county requirements for building. The hillside property was owned by Littles until 2004 when they deeded it to the city in case there was ever a need for the city to have access to the area above the parcels. Part of the new request included asking the city to vacate a portion of street and alley on top of the hill so people could build further back from the drop off.

There were no formal comments against the vacation however Leadore Avenue property owner Jay Davis said said he has never seen only part of a right-of-way vacated and thinks if it is to be done it should follow the usual process of vacating an entire right-of-way, which includes awarding adjacent property owners the surplus land along their property lines. His brother Stan, who was the mayor at the time of the original 2004 transaction, said he has mixed feelings about the request and agreed the entire right-of-way should be vacated. He also said that the hillside is currently not on the tax rolls and should be as part of the city’s tax base.

Some councilmen wanted to proceed with a full vacation but it was determined by City Attorney Fred Snook that since that had not been advertised as part of the public hearing it could not be done that evening.

Council President Jim Baker made a motion to table the decision until the June 4 council meeting. Councilman Russ Chinske pushed for moving forward with the vacation request as written and dealing with expanding the vacation later. Little stated that he was willing to relinquish any properties beyond his needs to the adjacent land owners.

A vote on Baker’s motion to table the decision resulted in a tie with Rob Jackson, Russ Chinske and Ken Hill voting against the motion and Fred Waidely, Jim Baker and Jim Bockelman voting in favor. Mayor Leo Marshall cited the issue’s 12 year long history and voted against delaying the decision for another two weeks. His tie breaking vote made the count four in favor of passing the vacation request as written and three against.

A follow up motion was made by Bockelman to vacate the public right-of-way as proposed by Little. Then he amended the motion to include Little’s promise that if the rest of the property is vacated he would relinquish those properties to adjacent property owners. It passed with a five to one margin with Fred Waidely casting the only no vote. It was determined that any additional public hearing to vacate the rights-of-way not addressed in that evening’s hearing would have to be requested by an outside party such as the Davises.

The De-Annexation public hearing centered on Little’s request to have their five parcels of land, which total 3.9 acres, removed from the city limits. The request was based on the city’s inability to deliver 35 psi (pounds per square inch) of water pressure to the properties. John Little said all potential buyers have balked at having to drill a well and still pay city taxes.

That proposal drew adamant opposition from former Mayor Davis who said he is against a decrease in the city’s tax base. He said, “This community can not continue to lose its tax base and go forward.” He said supporting de-annexation of this magnitude is negative and that there is nothing positive about it since it makes everyone else’s tax bills go up. He predicted housing growth in that area will increase and will move up the hill. He brought up the idea first offered in 2002 of installing a pumping station to boost the water pressure and supply uphill water users. Davis said that a pump station would be the responsibility of the property developers. He closed his remarks by saying it doesn’t make sense and there is no logical reason for citizens of this town to give away revenue generating property to Lemhi County.

Jay Davis pointed out that if the property is taken out from under city stipulations there will be nothing to stop people from building near the edge of the drop off which would be unsafe in the event of an earthquake. In addition he cited the loss of potential tax base revenue plus the amount of city time and effort initially devoted to that area, which he said would be a pity to waste.

In rebuttal Little repeated a promise made by then City Administrator Jay Townsend that water would be provided to that area as part of the planned city water upgrades. Little said he has lost buyers due to the lack of water and if the property never sells there isn’t any tax revenue from it anyway.

In later questioning Baker mentioned the availability of sewer service and a possible moratorium on septic tanks in that area. Little said that according to the health department and county building department there is no problem with septic systems as long as the property meets the one acre requirement. Waidely said installing a pump station to boost water pressure would be cheaper in the long run than the loss of tax base revenue on the potential one to two hundred thousand dollar homes that could be built in that area. He made a motion to deny the de-annexation request.

In discussing the motion Chinske said to deny the request would, “…. put the city in a position of running water up hill.” Rob Jackson favored simplifying the issue by de annexing the area.

The follow up vote was confusing since a ‘yes’ vote meant denial and a no vote meant yes. A second motion was made to simply approve the de-annexation request.

Both versions had the same three to three voting result. Mayor Marshall based his tie breaking yes vote on the 12 year length of time, the amount of information and the unknown booster system costs. Those against approval were Waidely, Baker and Hill. Those in favor were Bockelman, Jackson, Chinske and the mayor.

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