Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Catholic Church talks to Bellevue about land annexation proposal

Express Staff Writer

The second request for annexation made in the last month came before the Bellevue City Council last week.

Representatives from the Roman Catholic Diocese approached the council Thursday, June 23, with an exploratory annexation proposal for a Catholic church in Bellevue.

"We are asking for a landmark project for the city of Bellevue," said Larry Hellhake, a representative for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise.

The preliminary request involves property located at the northeast corner of the city at the end of Seventh Street. The site includes 29 acres, some of which are located in Bellevue and some of which are located in Blaine County. Representatives for the church indicated they desire to annex approximately six acres of county property into the city of Bellevue for a church facility.

"We feel the best use of the property would be in the city," Hellhake said.

Hellhake said that St. Charles Catholic Church of Hailey desires to build a new facility in order to accommodate its growing congregation. He said the costs are prohibitive to modify the existing building located in Hailey.

"This site is really ideal," Hellhake said.

Hellhake said the property would accommodate an approximately 500-seat church, a meeting hall, and a park. He estimated costs of the project at approximately $5 million, with construction likely to be completed over five years.

"I want to know more about the impact," Councilman Jon Wilkes said.

Wilkes said he wanted more information about traffic impacts, building size, building site location and architectural details.

Representatives approached the council with a preliminary proposal, not with site plans or impact studies. The city does not require such documents upon preliminary presentation, as Bellevue does not have an established process to review and approve annexation requests.

The property is located within the Residential zoning district, which allows churches as a permitted use. According to Planning and Zoning Administrator Jacki Saul, the design review process is not required and no maximum building size exists in the district.

City Administrator Tom Blanchard suggested the city could consider a development agreement defining the terms of the project.

Councilman Steve Fairbrother issued a motion to refer the annexation application to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Council members Fairbrother, Shaun Mahoney, Chris Koch and Tammy Eaton voted in favor of the motion. Councilman Wilkes voted against the motion. Councilwoman Vivian Ivie did not attend the meeting.

At a previous annexation request, City Attorney Jim Phillips said the referral of a project to the P&Z indicates the council is seriously willing to consider the annexation proposal.

The application now goes before the commission for discussions at a later date that will include a public hearing process.

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