Blaine County, Idaho

Blaine County, Idaho, population 23,021 (2019), lies in central Idaho, 100 miles east of Boise. The county was the site of gold, silver, and lead mining in the 19th Century. Sheep ranching started in the 1880s and is still an important part of the County’s character. In 1936, Blaine County became the home of Sun Valley Resort, reportedly the nation’s first world-class ski area. The northern half of Blaine County consists primarily of mountains within the Sawtooth National Forest, offering a wide range of recreational opportunities in addition to skiing. Today the County experiences heavy development pressure.

In 2006, the County completed a general plan update known as Blaine County 2025. As a result of that process, many portions of the County were down-zoned.

According to a 2019 staff report, an agricultural area serving as the scenic gateway to the Wood River Valley was downzoned from A-20 (one unit per 20 acres) to A-40 (on on-site unit per 40 acres). This sending area features spring-fed Silver Creek, an iconic trout stream that is now protected by 12,000 acres of land in conservation easements including The Nature Conservancy’s 881-acre Silver Creek Preserve. Owners of this downzoned sending area can preserve their land and sell TDRs at the ratio of one TDR per 20 acres, a two-to-one transfer ratio. The sending area is 19,289.9 acres, which, at one TDR per 20 acres, creates a potential for 964 TDRs.

Sending sites must be at least 160 acres in size or at least 40 acres for legal parcels exiting prior to July 2006. One development right can be severed for each 20 acres of a sending parcel not encumbered by easements or rights of way. After the transfer of development rights, the remaining maximum density cannot exceed one development right per 160 acres. For parcels, less than 160 acres but 40 acres or larger in size legally existing on July 5, 2006, the maximum allowed development is one unit per parcel following a transfer.

Transferable development rights are created by the recordation of a TDR Easement. The grantee of the development rights receives a Deed of Transfer from the grantor, the property owner. Each TDR requires a separate TDR Easement with its own serial number. If only some TDRs are being transferred, a map must be recorded depicting the portion of the parcel covered by the TDR Easement. These easements must state that the easement does not grant the public right of entry. TDRs may be transferred more than once with intermediate transfers documented by a new Deed of Transfer. 

The ordinance designates an initial receiving area zoned A-20 north and west of the settlement of Gannett. In addition, the ordinance sets forth eight standards for the designation of additional receiving areas. 1) The area proposed for receiving development must be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. 2) The proposed area cannot be environmentally sensitive. 3) It must be served by roads. 4, 5 & 6) The proposed receiving site development must be compatible with adjacent development and agriculture. 7) The area must be adequately served by infrastructure. 8) And the proposed site must be set back from the Heavy Industrial District.

TDR receiving sites must be at least 10 acres in size and zoned A-20. Each TDR allows an additional dwelling unit above the baseline density of one unit per 20 acres up to a maximum density of one unit per 2.5 acres. No lot can be smaller than one acre in size and at least 50 percent of the receiving area must be in dedicated open space.

As of a September 2019 staff report, the county had certified 14 TDRs. A few had been purchased and one had been used at a receiving site. At that time, staff reported that TDRs were selling for $25,000 each.