Ski Pond graphic.jpg

A half-mile long man-made ski pond south of Bellevue could get 24 homes on its shore.

A proposed 24-unit housing development at Gregory Ranch Subdivision south of Bellevue has drawn criticism from neighbors concerned about housing density, traffic flows and water shortages.

The developers are depending on Blaine County’s Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program to increase the allowed density, up to about one-unit per acre. The program was established 16 years ago to preserve natural resources in the unincorporated county and steer development closer to population centers. Essentially, landowners in relatively remote designated “sending” areas can remove developable density from property and apply it to land—or sell the rights to other landowners—in “receiving” areas capable of accommodating more buildings closer to towns.

The 76.51-acre Lateral 75 development is proposed by Flying Squirrel Productions, LLC, and would be situated around an existing 15-acre man-made water-ski pond just to the east of the corner of state Highway 75 and Glendale Road, about two miles south of Bellevue. The existing three parcels in the development area are currently zoned A-20.

Although the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission has approved the development, a petition circulated by nearby landowners in opposition to the development could have an impact on final approval from the county commissioners.

The petition has been signed by about 35 residents and was presented by Bellevue Triangle property owner Mike Willard. The petition points out numerous concerns that have been addressed by county staff, including impacts on surrounding water users from the 24 wells that would be built on the property.

“The situation created through the use of TDRs will lead to similar developments, creating more ad hoc water rights, putting even more stress and pressure on already struggling aquifer and senior water rights users,” the petition states.

The Wood River Land Trust, which has used TDRs successfully to preserve ecologically sensitive land to the south, sent a letter supporting the project. Some neighbors in the vicinity have also expressed support.

“Through extensive public process the county developed a TDR program and designated this area as a receiving area,” wrote Derby Lane resident Brian Yeager. “Opportunity to oppose the program is in the distant past.”

Under the TDR program, landowners in the “sending area” in the south Bellevue Triangle can sell a development right to a property owner in the land designated in the “receiving area” closer to town. Both areas are identified on a map on the Blaine County website.

“This allows the receiving area landowner an increased number of development rights than currently zoned while preserving areas in the sending area for productive agriculture or open space,” Blaine County states on its website.

According to a Blaine County staff report, a total of 18 development rights are needed to reach the density needed for the proposed 24 lots. To date, 13 have been obtained. Some of the TDRs purchased by the applicant were from the Molyneux family. The remaining TDRs can be incorporated into a later phase of the development.

The P&Z Commission recommended approval of the subdivision and the Blaine County commissioners have held two hearings.

The commission has continued the hearings pending further information regarding potential improvements to the East Glendale Road approach from state Highway 75, across the highway from the proposed development.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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