Friday, August 5, 2005

Sun Valley will appeal Crown Ranch decision

Council opts to take case to Supreme Court

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council voted Wednesday, Aug. 3, to appeal a decision by the 5th District Court to overturn the city's denial of the proposed fifth and final phase of Crown Ranch subdivision.

With a unanimous vote following an executive session, the council directed City Attorney Rand Peebles to appeal the decision to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Last week, 5th District Judge Barry Wood struck down the council's 2003 decision to deny the Crown Ranch application for a fifth phase of development.

"I am looking forward to appealing this to the Supreme Court," Peebles said earlier this week.

In ruling in favor of Crown Point Development, Wood determined that the City Council's decision "was erroneous in view of the whole record as well as arbitrary and capricious."

The judge upheld the city's design-review evaluation standards, but addressed a number of the council's findings in detail, concluding that they were erroneous, conclusory, irrelevant, and not based on substantial and competent evidence.

The City Council denied the Crown Ranch application in July 2003 based on findings that evaluation standards pertaining to view corridors and building sites were not met. Some neighbors of the project site had complained the project was too bulky and imposing.

The court ruled that in its decision the council "bowed to the pressure of certain residents, not because proposed Phase Five violates any code or ordinance, just certain homeowners who already have their house and don't want any additional houses in the neighborhood."

Because the court ruled that Crown Point Development met the evaluation standards and met all of the necessary requirements, the developer—without an appeal—could have moved forward to acquire a building permit from the city.

The fifth phase of Crown Ranch subdivision was proposed to be built along Crown Ranch Road, which branches off the southern section of Morningstar Road in Elkhorn. The plan calls for 13 single-family residential units—ranging from 3,455 to 3,751 square feet—constructed on a 3.3-acre parcel.

The appeal halts potential development. Peebles said that as long as the case is pending, a building permit for the development is on hold. The appeal process could take up to a year.

At the heart of the dispute is a lawsuit against the city that was revived in February. Crown Point Development, the developers of Crown Ranch, filed the lawsuit after the city denied its April 2003 design-review application and request to subdivide the proposed building site.

In May 2003, the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the City Council approve the subdivision.

Subsequently, the City Council in July 2003 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 to deny the related subdivision application to establish 13 lots on the parcel.

Crown Ranch then sought relief in court. A new application to the city seeking approval for the creation of only 11 lots and the construction of 11 townhouses was proposed but was not successfully brought to fruition, and eventually the court case was revived.

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