Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Peregrine proposal flies in face of Comp Plan

Commentary by Rod Kegley and Pam Rheinschild

Rod Kegley is a developer and president of the Coyote Bluff Homeowner's Association. Pam Rheinschild is a homeowner in Coyote Bluff.

This commentary may sound like another "not in my backyard" protest to growth and development in Blaine County; however, we encourage you to carefully consider our views with regard to the pending development plans for the approximately 157-acre Peregrine Ranch immediately north of our subdivision.

Members of the Coyote Bluff Homeowner's Association have met with both Harry Rinker and Nick Purdy to discuss their plans for the Peregrine Ranch. Their intended development of 380 home sites, with a mix of market and affordable housing units, is an outrageous exploitation of the Blaine County Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan.

Currently, the Peregrine is zoned R-1, 1 unit per acre density. The Rinker proposal has been designed with a rezone to R.4 or 2.5 units per acre. After infrastructure deductions, this is over 3 times the likely density that would be available under an R-1 scenario.

In order to propose this plan to Blaine County, Mr. Rinker is asking the city of Hailey for annexation into the city's sewer system. While we do not oppose Mr. Rinker receiving sewer service from the city of Hailey, we do expect him to develop the Peregrine under the established R-1 zoning requirements.

The developer claims that a plan incorporating individual septic tanks may pose a threat to nearby wells. There has been no demonstration by the developer that one-acre lots with individual septic tanks on the Peregrine Ranch would be detrimental to the environment, aquifer, local neighbors, or the nearby city of Hailey well heads. Until a Department of Environmental Quality Nitrogen Pathogen study is completed, this issue of potentially "hazardous" septic tanks is no more than a scare tactic being used to rally uninformed public support for obtaining sewer service from the city of Hailey—the key to asking for the greater density from the county.

For more than 25 years state law has required counties to formulate a comprehensive plan in part to protect and enhance neighboring property values. According to 9-1-2 of the Blaine County Comprehensive Plan the following is stated under Authority and Purpose:

"It (the comp plan) is enacted for the purpose of promoting public health, safety, morals, comfort and general welfare; to conserve and protect property and property values; to secure the most appropriate use of lands; to control the density of population; to prevent undue traffic congestion, to preserve the scenic and aesthetic values of Blaine County ..." Further according to the Blaine County Planned Unit Development Ordinance, PUD developments must achieve the following: "The preservation of Blaine County's open space and rural character" and "conformity to the comprehensive plan." Additionally, "Uses of least intensity and greatest compatibility with adjacent (land) uses must be arranged around the perimeter of a PUD."

The Rinker plan, with 380 units, cluster and pinwheel housing, paved parking areas, walks, and soccer fields violates nearly every one the Comprehensive Plan's objectives. The proposal clusters high density housing at both ends of the development adjacent to R-1 and R-2 areas, ignoring adjacent property owners' private property rights, existing lot sizes, and semi-rural residential character—again a violation of the zoning objectives. These adjacent neighborhoods include: Silver Sage, Coyote Bluff, the Sagebrush Subdivision, the Llama Ranch, Deer Creek, Cottonwood Creek, and Chapman's Ranch, who have each voiced opposition to this proposal.

Of concern are the existing equestrian activities and related facilities within the Sagebrush Subdivision, Coyote Bluff Subdivision, and Llama Ranches; which also includes the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped (a nonprofit equestrian program benefiting numerous individuals throughout Blaine County). The incompatibility of the proposed Peregrine development with the surrounding property owners is in direct contrast to the continuity sought through the Comprehensive Plan. The Rinker proposal is not the future land use those property owner's anticipated when they bought or developed their homes in close proximity to the Peregrine Ranch. The proposed high density, urban-type, development will inevitably create conflict between 380 new homeowners and these existing equestrian uses in terms of dust, flies, odor, etc.

Other areas of concern with this staggering density include the impact of 380 homes, nearly 800 cars amounting to 4,000 or more car-trips-per-day, and more than 1,200 individuals on, State Highway 75, Buttercup Road, the Blaine County Recreation Path, wildlife, light and water pollution, air quality, law enforcement, fire protection, and the school system, just to list a few.

It is our belief that the R.4 zoning was designed to provide relief to pocket areas of existing "non-conforming" sites within older developments, including areas along Buttercup Road, Cold Springs, Gannett, etc. The R.4 section was never intended to be expanded into rural sections of the county.

Increasing density requests for each new development or annexation application begs the question of the future build out of Blaine County: Just how many people are too many? Without a doubt there exists a demand in today's market for the product proposed in the Rinker development. However, growing demand nationally to relocate to a semi-rural area like the Wood River Valley will likely never be fully met, nor should be. The Comprehensive Plan was drafted to incorporate a manageable maximum population, a number which should not be exceeded due to a developer's wish for higher density simply to satisfy possible inexhaustible demand or to realize greater financial gain.

Mr. Rinker's stated commitment to help the working people within Blaine County have homes here, versus commuting from outside the area should be applauded and encouraged. With proper guidance and planning his goal can be successfully achieved with the Blaine County Housing Authority in the form of in lieu cash contributions from lot sales to finance the construction of new, properly managed, housing developments or acquisition of existing projects within the established core areas of the cities for conversion to affordable housing. Nowhere does it mandate that affordable housing must consist of a detached single-family dwelling or even actual homeownership. Locating affordable housing in this proposed shot-gun approach throughout mid-valley developments will only create a management nightmare for the Housing Authority and increasing non-compatibility issues with surrounding land uses.

In conclusion, we are adamantly opposed to any expansion of the density at the Peregrine Ranch beyond its current R-1 zoning and feel this urban-style development belongs within the boarders of the cities of Blaine County. Further, we expect the county to protect the adjacent property owners from this undue encroachment of our private property rights with this potential leapfrogging of the current zoning and urge the enforcement of the Comprehensive Plan.

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