BLACKFOOT — The City of Blackfoot issued a temporary 30-day conditional use permit on Tuesday to Bingham Academy, a public charter high school which leases space at the Riverside Plaza on Parkway Drive.

The permit was granted with the proviso that the high school submit an application for a regular conditional use permit within 30 days.

“This really is a win-win for everybody,” said Kurt Hibbert, Blackfoot’s planning and zoning administrator. “All the city wanted was for the school to be compliant with the local land use ordinance. They’ve now had their fire and building inspections, so we know they’re safe; and we can give them a temporary permit so school can start in two weeks.”

Blackfoot sent Bingham Academy a letter in July to formally inform them that they were out of compliance with the city’s land use and zoning ordinances. All schools within city limits are currently required to obtain a conditional use permit, including businesses such as day cares, preschools, and dance studios; however, schools which were built before the current land use ordinances were passed are excluded because they are grandfathered in, including most of the schools operated by the Blackfoot School District.

In reviewing the records for the high school last week, Blackfoot determined that Bingham Academy did not have a permit on file showing that they had had a building safety inspection. The city arranged for Bingham Academy to receive inspections on Tuesday morning from a state building inspector and the city fire marshal. Both building and fire inspections are prerequisites for a conditional use permit from the city.

“There are three legs on the stool for a safe building: building safety, fire safety, and appropriate land use,” Hibbert explained. “The first two, building and fire safety, must be completed before a conditional use permit can be issued.”

Fire safety inspections are done by the fire marshal, who then issues an occupancy permit. Blackfoot contracts with the state for its buidling inspections, which determine whether plumbing and wiring comply with Idaho’s building codes and that the physical building is structurally sound.

“They’ve done a great job of adapting that space,” Hibbert said, talking about the inspections. “There was just one thing that needs an engineer to look at it,” Hibbert remarked, referring to a doorway that the school installed to connect two former retail spaces.

“Now all that needs to be done is for the high school to submit their application and have their public hearing, just like the one we had in June for the middle school,” he added, referring to the public hearing on June 25 for the conditional use permit for the Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center, which also uses a former retail space in Riverside Plaza for their middle school facility.

“We’re getting a lot of practice with public hearings for schools,” Hibbert remarked, “so I expect that the next one (for Bingham Academy) won’t take any more time than the last one.”

Bingham Academy is scheduled to open for the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 19.

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