In order to follow through on their agreement with the Wood River Land Trust to rezone the Valley Creek Preserve as an open land district, Stanley City Council members voted to clarify permitted uses in their open land ordinance that would allow the preserve to shed its residential B zoning.

The current ordinance doesn’t mention or list permitted uses or infrastructure in open land districts and defines open land as a passive area devoid of streets, buildings or other structures that might interfere with the landscape’s natural aspects. That’s a problem, Mayor Steve Botti said, because the 35-acre piece of land is already developed with roads, bridges, culverts and parking areas along Valley Creek Road and an existing structure over the preserve’s hot springs.

Also, because council members intend to have the preserve minimally developed for recreational use, Botti said they need to clarify what they want allowed. With plans to build walking and biking paths, interpretive signs, benches and restrooms in the preserve, council members heard from Stanley residents on the possible development. Jeff Welker, who owns property near the preserve, wanted council members to clarify how they intend to protect the natural aspects of the land.

Even though what they have planned won’t drastically change the preserve, Welker said the people who visit it will. Once the preserve becomes more tourist friendly, Welker worried people will flood the area. This will scare away the wildlife, degrade the land through repeated use and bother the people who own property near the preserve, Welker said.

Also, Welker worried that any in-stream development on Valley Creek could flood his property. As part of the list of potential uses in open land districts, in-stream structures to manage fish and streamflow have been proposed. Welker said that kind of development could affect stream channels and force water onto his property.

Botti and council members assured Welker there are ways to mitigate the impacts left by tourists through proper policing and management. As for flooding Welker’s property, Botti said in-stream development is only one of many possibilities at the moment. Until City Council members hold a public hearing about rezoning the preserve, no future development can be planned, Botti said.

Welker spoke via telephone, as Stanley council members continue to meet remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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