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Wallace P&Z sends ordinance to city council

Local Editor | September 16, 2022 1:00 AM

WALLACE –– The Wallace Planning and Zoning Commission (WPZ) took another step toward protecting their hillsides from development during a public hearing last week.

At the conclusion of their near-two hour hearing, the board voted in favor of recommending the adoption of a mountain overlay district (MOD) to the city’s comprehensive plan.

The ordinance came with substantial support from the community, including 60 comments or letters in support of the measure compared to just six against it.

“While many Idaho cities and counties are struggling to keep up with the explosive pace of population growth and pressure to develop rural areas, the city of Wallace is looking towards the future and planning ahead to make sure its iconic mountain backdrop stays intact for generations to come,” said WPZ board member Courtney Frieh.

Overlay zones are zoning districts that work in addition with existing zoning districts to create specific, and sometimes stricter standards and criteria for the areas within the zones they cover.

The overlay zones are oftentimes used to protect specific aspects of communities and surrounding areas such as historic buildings, wetlands, steep slopes, and waterfronts.

Frieh has been working toward this goal for several years and was able to explain the real meat of it during an interview after the hearing.

“The main purposes of the proposed Wallace mountain overlay are to protect and regulate development on steep slopes in order to control erosion, avoid landslides, protect water quality, ensure adequate delivery of municipal services, and preserve aesthetic values,” Frieh told the News-Press. “The proposed mountain overlay contains clear standards and guidance for developers. It generally applies to parcels within city limits having a 25% slope or greater, including a grandfather clause for existing residential parcels. It limits hillside development to residential housing, one house per ten acres, and provides additional standards to control road building and visual scarring of the hillsides, and scenic beauty.”

Many of the public comments heard during the hearing that were supportive of the adoption, including comments from John Magnuson, centered on fears related to potential development of Wallace’s mountainsides – on all sides of the town.

While this victory seems like a huge one for those in favor of the ordinance, it still requires passing by the Wallace City Council in order for the overlay district to go into law.

“As chair of Planning and Zoning, it was a great feeling to have a solid, committed board at my side, and a full house of supportive community members before me,” Emma Stayduhar said. “The MOD ordinance is an important continuation of preservation efforts that are keeping Wallace Wallace. A lot of hard work went into Tuesday's outcome and it certainly paid off. By studying the past, and listening to the people, we are on track to a bright and prosperous future.”

During the meeting it was alleged that the city didn’t have an official comprehensive plan – however, that was a false statement. Wallace’s comprehensive plan was signed into law on April 9, 1980.

Nearly 80 people attended the meeting inside the Shoshone County District Courtroom, many of them on hand to voice or show their support for the MOD – much to the delight of the WPZ, who has spent countless hours working on the ordinance.

“I’m happy with the result,” said Frieh – who abstained from voting on the ordinance's approval. “It is a win for historic Wallace, a city that has always fought vigorously to protect its quirky and historic mountain town against freeways, Federal raids, and fires. I was impressed by the huge turnout of supporters that packed the courtroom and delivered heartfelt comments about Wallace and the need to preserve its beautiful character and setting. I also feel that we genuinely addressed the concerns of those who had questions about the language and consequences of the proposal itself. Lastly, I hope this measure will ensure that future generations can enjoy the beautiful, unspoiled mountains surrounding Wallace as people here have done for centuries.”

The Wallace City Council will convene next month on October 12, where they will have the opportunity to sign the ordinance into law.

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