Wednesday, September 11, 2013

County OKs site-alteration ordinance

Allows quick action to protect against mudslides


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

    Hillside landowners in Blaine County can now get almost immediate approval for emergency work needed to protect their homes from mudslides in the aftermath of the Beaver Creek Fire.
    County commissioners on Tuesday passed a temporary ordinance allowing owners of property in the Mountain Overlay District to obtain a site-alteration permit by contacting the Land Use and Building Services Office and getting verbal approval from two of the three county commissioners. The normal process requires an applicant to wait for the next commissioners meeting.
    Commissioner Larry Schoen said some work has already been done by landowners acting to protect their property from mudslides that suddenly occurred during a thunderstorm on the night of Sept. 2.
    “We wanted to allow people to protect their homes and us not to have to cite them for violating the Mountain Overlay District,” Code Compliance Specialist Diane Shay said.
    In an interview, Commissioner Angenie McCleary said she had heard from at least five people who wanted to do immediate work and knew of at least three instances of people having undertaken work without getting a site-alteration permit.
    The emergency process is most likely to be used by residents of Greenhorn Gulch, Deer Creek Canyon and Croy Creek Canyon. Almost all of the 26 lots in Greenhorn Gulch have about half their area within the Mountain Overlay District.


I really hope that the county requires any work that has previously been done to be subject to engineering.”
Ron Jolliffe
Greenhorn Gulch resident




    The emergency ordinance became effective upon its passage and will remain in effect for 182 days, the maximum allowed by state law. It applies when structures are imminently threatened and when the work proposed is limited to protecting them. It does not allow alterations that would endanger structures on neighboring properties.
    Anyone who obtains an emergency permit is required to apply for a regular permit within three months.
    The commissioners discussed but did not resolve the question of how to treat people who have already done emergency work without obtaining a site-alteration permit. County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves said they are technically in violation of the Mountain Overlay District, but indicated that they are unlikely to be prosecuted.
    McCleary said she hopes the commissioners will address that issue very soon.
    Greenhorn resident Ron Jolliffe said in an interview that his property is threatened by emergency drainage work done without a permit by a neighbor.
    “I really hope that the county requires any work that has previously been done to be subject to engineering,” Jolliffe said.
    The commissioners also agreed to pay half the $26,000 cost for the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a debris-flow model of the burned area. Schoen said the model would be used to determine where to place precipitation flow monitors, which would also be placed in streambeds. He said the monitors will probably be connected to the Internet for public access.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com




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