Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Crown Ranch development revived by judge's ruling

City of Sun Valley says it will appeal

Express Staff Writer

The lengthy contention surrounding the final phase of the Crown Ranch subdivision in Elkhorn found temporary resolve last week. Fifth District Judge Barry Wood presented a ruling July 27 that reversed the Sun Valley City Council decision to deny the Crown Ranch application for a fifth phase of development.

"We are very excited. I think it was a great victory for property rights and property owners," said Wade Woodard, the plaintiff's attorney of the Boise-based law firm Greener, Banducci and Shoemaker.

The court ruled in favor of Crown Point Development, finding that the Sun Valley City Council's decision "was erroneous in view of the whole record as well as arbitrary and capricious."

Sun Valley City Attorney Rand Peebles declined to assess the decision.

"Because I am recommending that we appeal, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any specifics of the judge's decision," Peebles said.

The judge ruled that the City Council's decision was not supported by substantial evidence on the record, that the council used an abuse of discretion, a violation of due process occurred and that the council's decision was made upon unlawful procedures.

Peebles did offer that one positive aspect from the case was the judge's decision to uphold the city's design-review evaluation standards.

Specifically, the court found the developer met the evaluation standards and met all of the necessary requirements to acquire a building permit from the city.

Development plans could be put on hold if the city chooses to appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court. The city has 42 days from the date of last week's decision to file an appeal.

Peebles said he plans to recommend the city appeal the decision, a process that could take another year.

The delay aligns with the lengthy debate that has ensued over the property.

In February, the developers of Crown Ranch revived a lawsuit against the city. A hearing was held in March, at which time the court requested more information. The ruling came last week in favor of the plaintiff, Crown Point Development.

"I think it shows that when (the city) denies a development, they need to base it on the zoning code, not on their whims or whether not they like it or not," Woodard said.

At issue is a lawsuit filed by Crown Point Development after the city denied its April 2003 design-review application and request to subdivide a 3.3-acre parcel at Crown Ranch into 13 lots.

The land-use appeal concerns the original Crown Point development plan that called for 13 townhouses to be built along Crown Ranch Road, which branches off the southern section of Morningstar Road. The development is the fifth and final phase of Crown Ranch.

After two public hearings, the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission in May 2003 recommended the City Council approve the subdivision.

Subsequently, the City Council in July 2003 unanimously upheld two separate appeals—submitted by a Crown Ranch property owner and the homeowner's association—opposing the P&Z's approval of the design of the project. At the same time, council members voted unanimously to deny the related subdivision application to establish 13 lots on the parcel.

The City Council denied the application based on their findings that evaluation standards pertaining to view corridors and building sites were not met.

Crown Ranch then sought relief in court, but then submitted a new application to the city seeking approval for the creation of only 11 lots and the construction of 11 townhouses. The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission approved the 11-unit development in September 2004.

However, when no resolution was reached, Crown Point revived its lawsuit.

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