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New West Daily Roundup for Nov. 8, 2016

Courtesy of CTA Architects Engineers

Today in New West news: an update on Riverfront Triangle, Idaho Public Utilities Commission approves Boise solar project, and why is the Lyman Family Farm buying hundreds of acres of public land?

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New West Daily Roundup for May 24, 2016

Dana Armstrong/Courtesy: Thinktank

Today in New West news: proposal to expand Bozeman’s Lark Hotel approved, an “energy bulletin” from the Cowboy State, and Utah’s outdoor recreation industry takes side in public lands debate.

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The Skinny on Streamside Setbacks in Western Montana


Would you set up a tent on an empty highway? Paul Hansen, a former University of Montana professor, asked this question at a February streamside setbacks workshop in Kalispell. Though the answer may be a simple one for many folks, a similar question has generated extensive public comment across several western Montana counties: would you build a house in the flood plain? Hansen reminded Flathead County residents that just because you might not see cars coming when your tent goes up doesn’t mean you won’t get run over when the traffic starts. And the same holds true for building a house right on the banks of a beautiful creek or river: though that land is dry at the time, streams tend to roam over time, which might include a wet side-trip right into your living room.

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Ada County’s Vanishing History

A barn somewhere in Idaho

Two barns are being dismantled in western Ada County, both between Amity and Overland -- one on Meridian Road and one on Eagle Road. They're being removed to make way for development, and soon people will be able to buy furniture or flooring advertised as "Genuine Barn Wood!" Meanwhile, two classic red barns will be gone. The lipstick-red barn at Meridian and Victory is already gone, demolished to make way for development that never came, though there's a big sign advertising that the land is for sale. On Overland Road, between Meridian and Linder, an entire side of the street is being burned and demolished to make way for a massive mixed-use development. Granted, most of those buildings were of little architectural significance, but they'll still be gone, replaced partly by a seven-lane Overland Road. The same thing happened along Greenhurst in Canyon County -- an entire block gone, to make way for a shopping plaza that largely stands empty.

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EPA Walks the Walk on New Denver Headquarters

It's cool to be 'green' these days. Sustainability is the new standard for communities, lifestyles and building codes. And in Denver, the Environmental Protection Agency is putting its practices where its policies are with its new Region 8 headquarters. The Denver Rocky Mountain News reports that the building in downtown Denver sports a garden roof, replete with 40,000 plants -- half of which were obtained locally -- thus reducing even the emissions required to move the materials to the site. Opus Northwest, the developer of the building, has applied for a Gold rating under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The gardenscape roof will capture rain and filter out pollutants, and reduce the warming effects generally caused by sunlight reflecting off concrete.

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Water Issues Whirl Around the West

New Mexico’s Gov. Bill Richardson declared 2007 to be the “Year of the Water,” for his state’s Legislature, but with increasing populations and dwindling water supplies, water will no doubt continue to be one of the top issues for federal, state and local governments in the West – no matter what the year. The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that in New Mexico developers’ plan to use irrigation water rights to help keep a project near Santa Fe afloat there has raised the ire of neighbors who fear the development may be too big and have too great an impact on water supplies in the area. Developers have claimed that enough water exists on the 1,300-acre parcel for 120 homes, but the development could see between 200 and 700 homes. The State Engineer’s Office says that any irrigation water right that’s converted to another purpose has to be evaluated at “consumptive use amount, or that which is actually used by crops,” – which is about 14.5-acre feet. And the State Engineer’s Office will no doubt have the final say on the project, since in New Mexico, that office has authority over all surface and groundwater and the allocation of those resources. Development in Mesquite, Nev., has sparked an interstate debate over water between Arizona and Nevada. Mesquite officials are looking south into Arizona for water to supply their needs in that fast-growing community. And just as Las Vegas’ water prospecting plans near the Utah border has caused a commotion in that state, Arizona residents are not pleased with the water-witching ways of Nevada.

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Western Developments Produce Changing Shades of Gray Zones

Affordable housing, wildlife habitat and open space – all are issues of concern to communities in the Rocky Mountain West. But unintended consequences of a buildling moratorium in one Colorado city are hobbling affordable housing efforts there. Concerns about wildlife habitat compelled the Idaho Fish and Game Department to issue an uncommon protest against a proposed development in Blaine County. And a desire to keep a cluster of new homes from cluttering up open space at the confluence of a Montana river and a prized blue-ribbon trout stream led to the creation of a zoning tool known as a citizen-initiated zoning proposal – a zoning district created at the behest of a group of concerned residents who opposed an Oregon developer’s plan to build 36 homes on 505 acres on Rock Creek. The Aspen Times reports that the Aspen City Council, which had enacted a 10-month moratorium on building projects last April — voted on Wednesday to extend that deadline to May 31, 2007. That decision also denied the request by proponents of an affordable housing project that the project be exempted from the moratorium. Citing the resort town’s obvious need for affordable housing, members of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority urged the City Council to exempt projects that would allow the demolition of 25 low-cost rental apartments, 14 at the private Park Avenue complex and 11 at the city's Smuggler Mountain, and replace them with 22 units of affordable housing on the two sites. But the Council denied the exemption, putting the projects on hold until after the moratorium expires on May 31. In Idaho, the Cove Springs development in Blaine County garnered a rare thumbs-down from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that wildlife agency officials criticized the developers for their unwillingness to work with the agency to alleviate concerns about the effect of the proposed 338 housing units on 600 acres of a 4,630-acre ranch five miles south of Bellevue.

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Coffee Talk About Land Rights, Development

I’ve often said (to the poor souls too slow or too polite to escape my opinionating) that how we use our land is the great Western issue of this time. What does that mean, precisely? Well, that depends on how you ask the questions. If you ask, “What will we have left if we allow everyone to build anything anywhere?” you’ll get a different take than if you ask, “What right does the government have to tell me I can’t use my land?” Hood River’s own Columbia Gorge Earth Center has taken a stab at this most-pressing debate: “How much control should the public have over the use of privately held land?” That’s the topic for a CGEC-organized debate between Steven B. Andersen and Jeff Hunter coming up on Monday, Feb. 26. The talk is free, open to the public and will be held at Dog River Coffee (411 Oak Street, Hood River). Starts at 7:30 p.m., and promises to be considerably more substantial than most coffee-house chatter...

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Some say Colorado County Should Limit House Size

Last year, Pitkin County commissioners capped house sizes at 15,000 square feet in the Colorado county, and now some folks in Boulder County are suggesting the county commission there impose a similar restriction. The Boulder Daily Camera reports today that the average size of homes in the Colorado county nearly doubled between 2002 and 2006. In 2002, the average home was 3,627 square feet, and by last year the average size of a home was up to 6,290 square feet. Those statistics show the Colorado county is slightly ahead of the national trend, where home sizes were an average of 2,095 square feet in 1995 , and are now 2,459 square feet. The White Hawk Ranch, a large subdivision where lots often sell for a million dollars, has about 50 mega-sized homes, and that development is the one that has Boulder County officials starting to discuss capping the size of homes. Michele Krezek, manager of special projects for the Boulder County Land Use Department, said limiting the size of homes should take a back seat to other planning concepts, such as building new homes out of environmentally friendly materials or building sustainable homes that use little energy. And there is some indication that folks are stepping away from larger homes in favor of homes built with top-notch materials. Apparently. Tim Blixseth, who is building a the much-touted “world’s largest spec home" – which is both large (53,000-square-feet) and built with top-notch materials, at Montana’s Yellowstone Club, has decided to embrace both the "bigger" and "better" trends.

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No Measure 37 Claims In Gorge Scenic Area, Says Court

The history was complex, but a recent ruling made it plain: Oregon’s Measure 37 does not apply in the Columbia Gorge’s National Scenic Area. That was the word from the Oregon Court of Appeals last week. The ruling (read it here) came a relatively swift two months after the court heard arguments in the case. The court action was a test case specifically designed to answer the question: which has precedence, the scenic area or Oregon’s land-use development law? Defendants Paul D. Mansur and Stephen Struck — both Hood River property owners wishing to develop modest parcels in the Gorge — were represented by Oregonians In Action, the point organization for Measure 37. OIA argued in court that since Oregon had to participate in the creation of the Columbia Gorge Commission, the Commission is a state agency. Actually, the court ruled, it’s a hybrid creature, a regional bi-state commission established under a Congressional act. Wrote the judges, “we agree with plaintiff that the interstate compact between Oregon and Washington that created the Commission has the force of federal law,” making the Scenic Area exempt from Measure 37 While lawyers were hashing out the Gorge-vs-Measure 37 case, legislators were beginning to tackle the law head-on. Democrats, now solidly in control of the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s seat, say they’re considering a revision of Measure 37. They say they may address the greatest issue at hand: that Measure 37, considered a matter of fairness by a large (if dwindling) number of Oregonians, opens loopholes for potentially massive developments...

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