Wednesday, September 14, 2005

SV approves comp plan

Protection of 'Gateway' main feature of city's blueprint

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman, right, discusses the land use designations outlined by the city's comprehensive plan update. Photo by David N. Seelig

Protection of the open vistas along Sun Valley's western entrance, known as the "Gateway" became official last week. With a vote to pass the 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update, the Sun Valley City Council agreed to permanently protect the entrance land corridor as open space, and nearly 3,000 acres of other city lands.

"I think (the plan) is superb. It reflects great insight and is a good guideline for our community for the next ten years," Mayor Jon Thorson said.

Following a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Commission, the city council voted Thursday, Sept. 8 to approve the city's guiding land use document. During the council's first formal review and public hearing of the update, the council voted 3-1 in favor of the plan, with Councilman Kevin Laird dissenting.

The approval came after considerable public discussion centering on the gateway lands along Sun Valley Road. The discussion resulted in minor amendments to the overall update, which establishes a general framework to guide the physical, social, economic and environmental development of the community.

As he presented the commission's unanimous recommended draft to the council, P&Z Chair Nils Ribi said, "When taken as a whole, (the plan) does represent the vision of the community."

The P&Z's recommendation arrived after input from the steering committee, city staff, planning officials, residents and consultants over 16 months.

At Thursday's public hearing the council and the public emphasized that approval of the update serves as the jumping off point for further, in-depth land planning.

"It is a start. Nothing is cast in stone. Please keep an open mind," Councilman Lud Renick said.

The plan requires an annual review.

Public review ignited the meeting, with Karen Reinheimer and Dan Pincetich criticizing the city's failure to properly notice the attendance of a quorum of P&Z members at steering committee meetings.

In defense of the city's actions, City Attorney Rand Peebles said, "The process that led to this process is appropriate, fair and lawful."

The council then moved to address the plan and attached maps. The plan includes "Land Use Planning Area" maps and narrative that outline development for six tracts of land primarily owned by Sun Valley Co.

Among those areas, the gateway parcel maintained the interest of the council and the public.

The gateway mapping designates an undisturbed corridor of open-space land stretching on the west side of Sun Valley Road to the Saddle Road intersection. The designation of Penny Hill as open space required the city to distribute the 112 units of existing development rights located around the hill to lands elsewhere in the area. Under the proposal, a 125-unit maximum is permitted as medium-density residential development.

Ribi explained that right to additional 13 units in the area came in exchange for open space.

Under the current regulations, remaining areas are designated agricultural/recreation, allowing recreational facilities such as an ice rink or tennis court to be built. Most of the gateway land is owned by the Sun Valley Resort.

Residents of the Bitterroot subdivision, located adjacent to the gateway, requested the city consider the density proposed near their subdivision.

Sun Valley resident Milt Adam encouraged the city to consider flipping development rights from Penny Hill across Saddle Road, to the northwest corner of Sun Valley Road and Saddle Road.

The plan approved by the city, calls for the front portion of the city's five-acre parcel to be designated as public/quasi public. Although the front section of the parcel is marked with a park symbol, the public/quasi land-use designation includes government facilities and workforce housing. The plan allows residential uses on the back (northern) side of the public parcel.

At the meeting, citizens voiced support for keeping the 5-acre parcel as open space.

Although the council discussed removing the cross hatch symbols that propose future trade sites for portions of the city's 5-acre parcel, the council decided the highest priority was to move forward with the plan and avoided material changes to the map.

"I think this is the best answer to a problem that I don't perceive can be solved at this juncture," Councilman Blair Boand said.

Calling himself a filibuster, Councilman Kevin Laird addressed a long list of small problems. The board addressed Laird's concerns, moving forward with a motion by Renick, seconded by Boand, to approve the plan. Via a conference call, Council President Ann Agnew voted with Renick and Boand in favor of the motion. Laird opposed.

"Seventy-nine pages, 18 months, $125,000, folks this is not an update, it is a rewrite. Because it is a rewrite, it would suggest that 10 years hence, we would concentrate on a rewrite," Renick concluded.

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