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Shoshone driveway ordinance gets second public hearing

by JOSH McDONALD
Staff Writer | February 16, 2024 1:00 AM

WALLACE — The Shoshone Board of County Commissioners is working closely with the county’s planning and zoning department to make sure a proposed ordinance change doesn’t end up penalizing residents. 

The board reopened Tuesday a public hearing from January concerning the amending of Shoshone County Code 9-8-6, specifically, where the code discusses regulations for new construction and access for emergency and fire crews — including easements and rights of way when those roads need to be accessed. This particular section of the code affects only those living in Shoshone County’s unincorporated areas. 

The draft of the amended ordinance was presented before the board in December, but they had some concerns over some of the changes, as well as who the amended ordinance affected.

The main reason behind the proposed change to the current ordinance is accessibility and safety for emergency responders — medical, fire, and police. 

This amendment will allow local fire chiefs to have some say in whether or not certain roads will be or can be accessed by their crews, or if changes need to be made.

Within the original draft amendment, several small changes were discussed — however, some of the bigger changes that were being requested were that private road easements need to be at least 60 feet in width. Common driveway easements need to be 40 feet in width. Cut and fill slopes and storm water systems adjacent to roads and driveways must either be shown as easements or rights of way in favor of the maintenance entity. And, that fire protection districts with jurisdiction over a property may determine whether a driveway or common driveway complies with the standards in the current international fire code.

“Essentially what it is, is it adopts the fire code as a standard for private roads and driveways. We haven’t had any formal design standards when it comes to private roads and private driveways,” P&Z Administrator Dan Martinsen said previously. “When we adopt building code, within building code is the international fire code. So, by extension, fire code has always been required for building permits, what this does is pulls it out and puts it in zoning codes.” 

It also was not clear if this proposed change would be for just new construction, or if existing residents were going to have to make changes to their properties. 

Many people spoke against the original draft during the public hearing in January, citing issues like the ordinance’s vagueness on responsibility, the potential for takings, and concerns over what is considered legal access. 

The board asked P&Z to go back and make some changes to their amendment, including reducing the 60-foot easement to 50 feet, as well as clarifying if this was for new or existing properties.

After working with the county’s legal team, they produced a new draft ordinance, which was presented on Tuesday. 

The following verbiage was added to the amended ordinance, stating: “These regulations shall apply to all new establishment of residential uses to include but not limited to development of structures, new and existing private roads, driveways, and common driveways.”

With the changes to the amendment, Commissioner Dave Dose believed that it would be better for the community if they held another public hearing to allow residents to speak on the changes. 

“There’s been a lot of information and misinformation going around about these proposed amendments,” Dose said. “We don’t have any opportunity for public input because we’ve done that at this point.” 

Because they closed the public comment period of the hearing, they were not allowed to take additional comments — even on a revised document

“We really want to be able to have public comment on the changes we’ve made,” Commissioner Jeff Zimmerman said. “We’ll have a new public hearing, so we can receive new public input. I know a lot of people are worried about this happening to existing properties and roads and I think we need to make it more clear that it’s not going to affect existing roads. It’ll just affect roads that new construction will be built on. But I think a lot of people will have questions.” 

The board is unsure if additional changes will need to be made following another public hearing, but the additional time gives the board more time to review and refine the draft ordinance. 

The public hearing has not yet been scheduled.