Backcountry zoning plan gets public hearing
What: Backcountry rezoning plan public hearingWhen: Today, May 7, at 5:30 p.m.Where: Buffalo Mountain Room, Community and Senior CenterSUMMIT COUNTY – A county plan to rezone several hundred mining claims in the Snake River and Tenmile basins would result in new rules on development of backcountry parcels, including limits on house sizes and changes to road standards.Based on master plan language that emphasizes preservation of the rural, natural characteristics of the backcountry, the county wants to reclassify 275 properties in the Snake River Basin and 66 properties in the Tenmile Basin into a backcountry zone.The proposal is up for a public hearing May 7 in front of the countwide planning commission. Since a large number parcels, totaling 3,615 acres, is up for rezoning, the application is being processed as a “quasi-legislative” action, with multiple public hearings scheduled. At the same time, the planning commission will consider changes to backcountry zone district regulations that are related to the rezoning move.Based on public feedback from a previous Snake River planning commission meeting, county planners will revisit the proposal to specifically address concerns of a few property owners who said their parcels shouldn’t be subject to the new rules.The backcountry zoning district is determined by several characteristics, including: a rural, undeveloped characteristic; a lack of improved or maintained roads; a distance from major roadways and exisiting infrastructure; environmental constraints (wetlands, steep slopes and tundra); and visually sensitive areas (prominent ridgelines, hillsides or viewsheds).Several long-time residents and property owners in the Snake River Basin characterized the proposal as a down-zoning that would diminish their property rights and lessen the value of their land.The rezoning would apply similar development rules already in effect in the Upper Blue Basin. In conjunction with a transfer of development rights (TDR) program, the Upper Blue backcountry zoning has helped steer development toward areas deemed for suitable, with existing access and infrastructure.The house-size limit on backcountry parcels drew the most criticism during the Snake River planning commission meeting, with several property owners claiming that the restrictions aren’t realistic. Under the rules, a property owner with a two-acre parcel could build a 750 square-foot cabin. On a five-acre parcel, an owner could build a 900 square-foot cabin. The square footage increased with the size of the parcel, up to a maximum of 2,400 square feet. Property owners can assemble several parcels to reach that maximum size, and the land doesn’t have to be contiguous. In other words, a person could own several scattered parcels totaling 35 acres, and use the development rights to build the maximum-size house on one of them. The developments rights would be extinguished on the other parcels.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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