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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 4 - 10, 2002


Bellevue’s future 
in new document

City works to update 
Comprehensive Plan

"We will have no more developable lots in another four years. We will be a built-out town."

—STEVE ALMQUIST, Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator

Express Staff Writer

Bellevue City Council members next week will consider approving an updated Comprehensive Plan designed to be the guiding land-use document for city officials in years to come.

Council members are scheduled to review a working draft of the document on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. in Bellevue City Hall, and may decide on whether to endorse the plan and an associated land-use map.

If approved, the plan would then be presented for final adoption by the council through a formal resolution on Thursday, Sept. 26.

The draft plan received general support from most council members during a discussion Aug. 22 about its readiness for adoption.

"Let’s get this done," Councilman Parke Mitchell said, presiding over the meeting for Mayor John Barton, who was absent.

In introducing the document, Bellevue Planning and Zoning Administrator Steve Almquist said the most important conclusion the plan makes is that all remaining open parcels in Bellevue will likely be developed by 2006.

"We will have no more developable lots in another four years," Almquist said. "We will be a built-out town."

Essentially, the proposed Comprehensive Plan aims to give city officials a document to guide future decisions on land-use issues. The document outlines a series of guiding policies for the city to follow, as well as suggested actions to implement the plan and its overall goals.

The plan itself states that it will "serve as a guide for local decision-makers to use to assure that decisions are made in the best interests of the community."

Key chapters of the draft plan state that:

· The population of Bellevue is growing slowly but steadily. At the beginning of 2002, the population of the city was 1,980, a number that is projected to rise to 4,684 by 2020.

· The city’s projected growth rate of 4.9 percent is expected to coincide with an increase in residential development that will cause "all available residential-zoned land within the Bellevue city limits being built out by the year 2006."

· From 1993 to 2002, the average cost of a house in Bellevue increased approximately 8 to 10 percent per year.

· Bellevue has less than 190 undeveloped lots in the city limits. However, an estimated 25 to 30 new lots could be created through the subdivision of undeveloped parcels.

· The number of building permits issued by the city has been increasingly steadily since a drop in 1998. The city issued 34 building permits in 2001.

· The city’s sewer system is capable of handling increased loads caused by future growth, but may be of better service if its capacity is increased. The plan recommends the city upgrade its water-distribution system.

Key goals for the city outlined in the plan include:

· Maintaining a "healthy and stable economy through managed growth while providing for Bellevue’s diverse population."

· Encouraging affordable housing and protecting property values "by improving the quality of existing housing and neighborhoods."

Protecting citizens’ fundamental land-use rights.

· Maintaining the city’s historic, small-town, rural atmosphere.

· Aiming to preserve open space around wetlands and in areas next to the Big Wood River, as well as in the mostly undeveloped canyons east of town.

· Promoting the conservation and "efficient management" of so called "special areas," such as the Big Wood River, Wood River Trail System, Slaughterhouse Canyon and Seamons Canyon.

Councilman Jon Wilkes said he wanted the new plan—which has been worked on by city officials for approximately two years—to move forward without further delay. "I need to know how long we are going to just sit here and go nowhere," he said.

While most council members were supportive of the draft document, the plan upon its presentation to the council Aug. 22 did draw a series of objections from Councilman Wayne Douthit.

Douthit early in the discussion presented a motion to the panel to table any discussion of the plan until the council’s meeting Sept. 12, but the motion failed by a 3-1 margin.

Douthit later alleged that Mayor Barton and Planning and Zoning Administrator Almquist may have cooperated to ensure that an approximately 14-acre parcel south of downtown be reserved as open space, and that former Planning and Zoning Commissioner Mike Choate may have had a "conflict of interest" in the matter.

In essence, Douthit was concerned that the so-called "Howard Property" was designated on the proposed land-use map as a preferred site for open-space or recreation-use status.

Almquist assured Douthit that the city had not illegitimately discouraged development on the site.

Councilwoman Tammy Schofield noted that the council earlier this summer had determined that the site should be preserved as open space. "We decided as a council that there was no development going down there," she said.

Douthit remained concerned about the proposed map. "I don’t think that any private property should be considered greenbelt, because any private property is developable," he said, hesitant to elaborate on his objections because Barton was absent from the meeting.

City Attorney Jim Phillips told Douthit and the panel that zoning designations determine how land can be developed, not the city’s pending land-use map.



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