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Two public hearings drew large attendance at the April 24 meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners. At the second hearing most of the public concerns did not match the specific reason behind the hearing and officials spent time trying to clear the confusion.

The first hearing was to obtain public comments about a request to officially abandon the Deer Creek Valley Subdivision. Substituting for Tom Taylor of Taylor Surveying, Jerry Bragg of High Basin Engineering explained the reasons behind the request. He said the subdivision south of town on the west side of the Salmon River was created in 1973 on a 198 acre parcel of land. He said no lots have been sold since that time and there have been no established roads built or any other improvements on the property. According to Bragg the current plan for the property is to continue to use it for farming and ranching. In 1993 there was a land swap involving the land owners, Salmon River Properties, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) however, the arrangement is not recognized as a trade in Lemhi County parcel records due to the fact the subdivision was not abandoned prior to the trade. Wells Fargo Bank is the current agent for the Salmon River Properties estate and will be managing and facilitating the transaction.

Bragg said that the subdivision vacation proposal includes giving Lemhi County a 60 foot right-of-way-easement through the property. He said when the weather clears a survey will be done to pinpoint the easement path.

Commissioner Chairman Ken Miner asked if the County Road and Bridge Department had comments on the proposal and Road Specialist Jay Davis replied the department has submitted materials concerning history, state statutes and a request for an easement through the Deer Valley Subdivision. He said that the easement proposal could provide the public with motorized access to public land on the other side of Deer Valley. In response to a question by County Attorney Bruce Withers, Davis said the Road and Bridge Department has no objection to the vacation of interior roads within the subdivision.

Robert Johnson spoke in favor of the proposal to abandon the subdivision however; he did have an issue with a locked gate just past Dugout Dick’s. He said the locked gate prevents use of what he believes should be a county right-of-way up to BLM land, through the subdivision and on to public lands. He said the person who owns the property on the other side of the gate says the land is privately owned and the road is not a public road. Johnson said as part of the subdivision vacation process being discussed he would like to see the county open that gated road for public access.

John Black added his support in favor of what Johnson had said.

The person who now owns the property and the gate is Mike Whitmore who said that gate has been in place since the early 1940’s when the property was homesteaded. He said there are three quarters of a mile of ‘driveway’ through private property before it reaches state land or the BLM land. He said that prior to becoming the current land owner he managed the property for Salmon River Properties for 21 years. Since buying that portion of acreage in January he said the gate has been shut because it is private property and because of poaching and theft instances. He said the proposed 60 foot right-of-way would go through a shop building, fuel pumps and a narrow stretch of land between the creek and mountain side. He said it is all on private property. Whitmore said he has no objections to the abandonment of the subdivision but is against the 60 foot right-of-way. He supplied Clerk of the Court Terri Morton with documentation of the three easements that have been granted since 1933. The first was for homesteading and the last issued in 1961 was to Idaho Power.

During the hearing’s rebuttal opportunity Bragg said he believes that the property to which Whitmore was referring is not the same as the parcel being proposed for vacation. He also said the pertinent 60 foot easement being proposed on the property is an easement to the county versus actually deeding the property to the county.

The official hearing was closed and the information provided will be taken under advisement by the county which has 60 days to issue a decision on the subdivision vacation.

The next public hearing of the day concerned changes to the county’s Development Code which City/County Planning and Zoning Administrator Gary Goodman explained had to do with eliminating duplications, rearranging the order of some paragraphs and overall making the document more user friendly. There were also some updates needed so that the code will comply with current state standards. He said the changes being proposed have nothing to do with the intent of the code’s content and that the County Planning and Zoning Commission has reviewed the changes and recommended they be adopted.

The audience in attendance had come prepared to argue the proposed rezoning of the Smedley Subdivision which would allow duplexes to be built in what is now zoned as a residential area.

As speakers kept referring to the Smedley zoning issue rather than the advertised subject of the public hearing, Commissioner Brett Barsalou reiterated what Goodman had said and went on to say the changes being proposed that day had to do with language changes to the already adopted ordinance, not changes to the code itself.

Goodman explained that after the city and the City Planning and Zoning Commission actually make recommendations on the zoning of city/county impact areas there will be several opportunities for public hearings on those recommendations as well as on various parts of the Development Code.

David Tomlinson requested all references made to the language changes not having any effect on the code itself, be included in the official hearing’s record.

Zoning related comments made by the four other speakers at the hearing along with a petition the residents presented will be saved for reference when recommendations for city/county impact area zoning are actually made and hearings on those recommendations begin.

As to the subject of the Public Hearing, Kathleen Curet said she would like to see the before and after wording changes that have been made to the Development Code. She said making that information available would help extend transparency which in turn builds trust.

The hearing was closed and the County Commissioners will have 60 days to announce a decision on accepting or rejecting the proposed language changes in the Lemhi County Development Code document.

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