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Tag Archives: growth

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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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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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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New Twist on Colorado Development

Infill development--a mixed bag of retail and residential spaces--has been touted as just what downtown areas in Salt Lake City, Denver and Boise needed to re-energize those areas. And the street-level retail space with upper level condos and townhouses have done just that. Another planning trend is a master-planned community--a stand-alone development--that offers the amenities of small town living, i.e. retail spaces within walking distance of a mix of single-family homes and townhouses, nearby open space and some that even include affordable housing. Two separate developments, one near Vail and another near Denver, offer other angles on crafting growth. The Rocky Mountain News reports that a developer wants to plunk an urban, mixed-use development down in the middle of suburbia. Keith Simon says his Commonwealth Heights in RidgeGate, about two miles southwest of the Park Meadows mall, will look a lot like Larimer Square with narrow, tree-lined streets, alleys, retail, apartments, condos and townhouses. But the development will also have single-family homes, an element usually found in suburbia.

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Estate Sale Could Gut Idaho Town’s Commercial Center

The death of a gambling magnate in 1978 is just now being felt in Stanley. The Bill Harrah Trust Fund will soon be dissolved and the assets sold off. Nearly one-quarter of all the land the Idaho town is owned by the trust fund -- and the beneficiaries of the Nevada gaming magnate plan to sell the land once the trust is dissolved. That land underlies nearly all of the town’s year-round businesses -- and tax revenue from those businesses constitutes a large portion of the city’s budget. The Idaho Mountain Express reported last week that currently the town has no way to prevent a developer from swooping in, buying the land, tearing down the Mountain Village gas station, grocery store, restaurant, hotel and bar, and replacing those much needed businesses with single-family and vacation homes.

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Wanna Write for New West SLC?

Wanna write for New West? We’re looking for writers to help flesh out the Salt Lake City node. If you’re a resident of Salt Lake (or Park City, Ogden, Provo, St. George, or Tooele) and want to contribute stories on current events, politics, arts and entertainment, or simply mouth off about what is going on around you, hey—do it for us.

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Western Cities Work to Preserve Wildlife Habitat

Earlier this month, the University of Wyoming published a report on the importance of private lands to the state’s wildlife. That report, Wyoming’s Open Space Initiatives said that the state’s big game wildlife such as elk, moose and deer, spend about 70 percent of their time on private land, underscoring the importance of preserving such lands from development. Wide open spaces are on the minds – and ballots – in several other Western states as well. In Utah, a recent poll of 605 registered voters found that open space issues were high on the list of their concerns. About a third of those who responded to the poll said that local planners should make maintaining open space a priority. The Deseret News reports that the survey, commissioned by the Utah League of Cities and Towns, found that 37 percent of those surveyed felt that planning decisions should be made on the local level and that the state should stay out of such decisions.

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Another Western Resort Town Mulls Limits on House Size

Aspen, Telluride and Pitkin County in Colorado all have them. So does Jackson, Wyo. And now Sun Valley planners want them, too. “They” are limits on the size of homes built in the Idaho resort town. An Associated Press article published today in the Twin Falls Times-News says Sun Valley’s planning board gave initial approval to an ordinance that would cap home sizes at 12,000-square feet — and impose even smaller limits on homes on hillsides. Sun Valley’s Mayor Jon Thorson said the new limits are needed to preserve the scenic integrity of the mountain community. But a developer, whose company is building new homes around a golf course, called the new rules a “travesty.”

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Comprehensive Plans Behind the Curve

Recent Census and housing figures attest the population of the West is booming. Nevada has led the nation in growth for the past 19 years. Idaho ranked third for the 2004-2005 Census. And St. George, Utah, was the top in the nation for population gains between 2000 and 2005. Nevada officials said they weren't surprised with their top ranking because all they do is deal with growth. St. George, surrounded as it is by federal land, would get some room to grow under legislation sponsored by Utah's U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett and U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson that would open up some 25,000 acres of federal land for development. In Idaho, cities are also running out of room to grow as a recent land war between Kuna and Meridian signifies. Ada County officials had asked the two towns to stop their rapid annexation of land that lies between them, but the mayors of the cities said they had to grow to survive.

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