The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission will today, June 6, consider granting a variance to a Riverside Estates developer that would allow construction closer than 100 feet from the Big Wood River.

Tim Thomas and the Pensco Trust are seeking to build at 700 Riverside Drive, within the 100-foot riparian setback. His application, to be presented by David Patrie, states that, “many years of flood events have caused erosion to the subject property, thereby decreasing the size of the area where the building envelope is located.”

Thomas proposes a total building area of 10,780 square feet, comparing it to neighbors in Riverside with homes ranging from 22,000 to 36,000 square feet. Existing code would allow a building of 7,000 square feet.

Riverside Estates has been the site of extensive flooding in recent years, jeopardizing city infrastructure and leading to evacuations and property damages. The setback variance would allow Thomas to build a larger home on his property that would reach closer to the river on the northwest corner.

“In the time since the Riverside Estates Subdivision was platted and approved [1981], FEMA has updated its floodway/floodplain mapping and the city of Bellevue adopted a Floodplain Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance,” states the application. “The strict enforcement of this ordinance will deprive the subject property rights and privileges enjoyed by other properties in the vicinity and under the same zoning classification.”

“The Big Wood River is a highly dynamic and erosive river,” wrote Blaine County Certified Floodplain Manager Kristine Hilt in a report on the variance application for the Bellevue P&Z Commission. “Existing structures built close to the river are at risk of erosion and flood damage. These structures have proven difficult to access and protect during floods of record.”

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