BLACKFOOT – The November meeting of the Bingham County Planning and Zoning Commission turned out to be a contentious one when more than two dozen people turned up to protest the approval of three applications — two for a Conditional Use Permit and one for the replat of a lot in the Skyview Subdivision.
The application that caused the most concern among P&Z board members was from Cody Hawker for a CUP to use a personal motocross track on his property in a Natural Resources/Agriculture Zone at 1105 N., 1290 E., and they hoped he would withdraw it.
After an hour of testimony in opposition and discussion by the board, a decision on the application was tabled for three months in the hope that the residents of the neighborhood can work out a solution amongst themselves so the application can be withdrawn until the county concludes the update of its zoning ordinance and comes up with a more specific definition for racetrack and motocross track.
P&Z Chairman Darren Leavitt said at the start of the public hearing on Hawker’s application he feared the board would be opening up a Pandora’s box by issuing a Conditional Use Permit for a motocross track.
“It seems that every kid in the county who has a motor bike and whose parents have a little property is riding bikes on it,” Leavitt said, “but I don’t think that meets the definition of a motocross track. If we approve this one we might be setting a precedent. Why are we even hearing this?” he wondered, noting that it seems like something that should and could have been worked out with neighbors to the property.
Hawker said the track was in place when he purchased the property and that his sons and an occasional friend use it, but he was unaware that it’s a conditional use in a Natural Resource Zone.
Three people testified in opposition, and Acting P&Z Director Leigh Ann Davis said her office has received letters in opposition.
The biggest complaints among those testifying were dust, noise, safety, and the fear that a motocross track in the neighborhood would lower property values.
One person said Hawker’s track is not the only one in the neighborhood. “There’s one across the street from me and on Sunday there’s so much dust you can’t even see the riders. Clouds of dust come off my lawn when I walk on it.”
One person said the soil in the area is so fine they refer to it as “flour dirt,” and when it’s dry and disturbed by the motor bikes it fills the air so thick they can’t enjoy life. Another said they can’t open their windows or even leave their houses. “The dust is horrendous,” he said.
Others said homes in the area are valued from several hundred thousand dollars to over $1 million, and allowing something to devalue them would not be fair to the owners.
One resident said the kids who ride their motor bikes have no thought for safety or traffic laws. “They ride their bikes on the wrong side of the streets and even come up in my circular driveway and wouldn’t listen when I tried to talk to them about it.”
In response to a comment by Hawker that the bike motors are only 100 cc and one doesn’t make a lot of noise, one person asked, “Have you ever heard 18 lawnmowers running at once?”
Following discussion by the board, David Tanner made a motion to table a decision for a month. It died for lack of a second. Miles Carroll made a motion to approve the CUP. It also died for lack of a second. Scott Chappell made a motion to table a decision for three months to give the subdivision residents time to work out a solution so maybe the application can be withdrawn. David Tanner seconded it. Carroll and Lorin Croft voted no, and Leavitt broke the tie in favor of the motion.
Alice Anderson’s application for a CUP to operate a yoga and fitness center in a building located in a Light Manufacturing (M1) Zone at 26 N., 470 W. also brought protests.
The main objection was an overload of traffic on a small residential street that provides the only access to the building. Noting that the board recently approved a CUP for a dance studio at the same location, one objector asked, “How many more businesses are you going to allow in here before you require another access?”
The same person said the new business, which is already in operation, is also a karate studio and people are coming and going as early as 5 a.m. He said the M1 zone surrounds their Residential Zone.
Board member David Tanner commented that the commercial area does surround the residential area and the two are fighting for existence.
Carroll made a motion to approve the CUP, it was seconded by Croft and approved unanimously.
The replat of a lot in the Skyview Subdivision at 377 N., 460 W., where Layne and Rosalinda Elison have converted a shop building to rental property on their 4.9 acres also brought a crowd of protesters, and eight of them testified.
Again, one of the concerns was property values in a subdivision where one resident said the price range is $200,000 to $300,000 per house while the Elisons’ converted shop is worth less than $100,000.
Another protester said if the replat is approved it might open the door to five-acre lot owners to subdivide and might pave the way for cheaper houses to move in, or even trailer houses. Another neighbor said they wouldn’t complain if Elison would stop renting the house out.
Engineer Chris Street, who presented the application for the Elisons, said wryly that the building is only worth $95,000. Street also commented about people complaining by letter that the couple’s property is not in compliance with the zoning ordinance. “They all have property that’s not in compliance.”
P&Z member Lorin Croft made the motion to recommend the county commissioners approve the replat, it was seconded by David Tanner and approved unanimously.
A public hearing on the recommendation is scheduled in commission chambers on Dec. 17 at 2 p.m.
Davis said the zoning office received seven letters and a petition with 40 signatures in opposition to the replat.
There was no opposition to Chase Carter’s application requesting a recommendation of approval for a two-lot subdivision to be known as the River Road Ranchette on 10.11 acres in an Agriculture Zone near Pingree. Lorin Croft made the motion to recommend approval, it was seconded by David Tanner and approved unanimously.
A public hearing before the county commissioners is scheduled for Dec. 19 at 2 p.m.
An application from Sarah Jackson for a 15-foot variance to the county’s 70-foot set-back from a major collector road requirement, and a CUP to operate a gymnastics studio in her shop, was approved unanimously. The property is in an Agriculture zone at 440 S., 1200.
An application from Boyd and Hedy Bowman for a recommendation of approval for a proposed two-lot replat of Block 4, Lots 21 and 22 in the Greenfield Acres Subdivision at 1339 E., 1160 N. for residential use was also approved without opposition. A public hearing is scheduled before the county commissioners on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.