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For the week of April 23 - 29, 2003

News

Sun Valley P&Z
rejects Sun Villas


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday recommended denial of a proposed massive condominium project in Elkhorn.

Elkhorn Resort LLC, based in New York City, had applied for a preliminary subdivision plat and design review for Sun Villas, a five-story, 63-foot-tall project on a 4.25-acre site on Village Way uphill from the Elkhorn Hotel site. The project consists of four buildings totaling about 100,000 square feet.

At the conclusion of its fourth hearing before the P&Z, the project was turned down by a 3-to-2 vote, primarily on the grounds that its scale was out of proportion to the surrounding neighborhood, a criterion included under both subdivision and design review. Architect Michael Doty presented plans showing a project scaled down from 111 to 105 units, and with a roof profile more closely matching the slope. However, those changes satisfied neither a majority of the commission nor the several neighbors and their representatives who spoke at the public hearing.

Gene Abrams, the owner of a nearby Sunburst condominium, told the commissioners that they had a duty to protect the property values of surrounding landowners.

"This does the opposite of that," Abrams said.

Also at issue was whether the developer needed to include some commercial space to build large structures in the Commercial Core district. A draft ordinance caps building height at 44 feet unless it includes commercial space or affordable housing, in which case the limit is 62 feet. However, the existing ordinance allows a height of 64 feet.

City Attorney Rand Peebles told the commissioners that an existing ordinance that appears to limit residential density to 21 units per acre in the Commercial Core district, by reference to another ordinance section, probably was misdrafted. He said minutes from the 1999 city council meeting at which the amendment was passed show no intention by the council members to do that.

Commissioners Mark Pynn and Ken Herich voted against the motion to recommend denial.

"Are we going to take away somebodyís right to do something per the zoning ordinances that are already in place just because we want to see something smaller?" Herich asked.

Pynn said he found it "refreshing" to see high-density housing proposed for that site.

"This is where it should happen," he said.

The city council in December had enacted a temporary moratorium on new projects in the Commercial Core zone pending completion of the new amendments. However, the Sun Villas application was filed before the moratorium was adopted. The moratorium expired April 19 but was extended for another 120 days.

The P&Zís rejection of the proposed subdivision for Sun Villas is only a recommendation that will go before the city council. Its design review rejection is a final decision.

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.