Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Bellevue amends 'box store' ordinance

Express Staff Writer

The Bellevue City Council approved Thursday several amendments to the city's large-scale development ordinance, which they originally passed on Sept. 29, 2005.

Bellevue officials say the ordinance is meant to ensure that future large-scale developments are of a size, character and quality that preserves and enhances the city's character.

Under the ordinance's original language, developers wishing to construct buildings in excess of 15,000 square feet were required to apply for a "large-scale conditional use permit" prior to construction.

The original rules also limited both the maximum size of a building's gross area footprint to 18,000 square feet and the maximum gross floor area of two-story buildings to 36,000 square feet.

Under the new rules approved by the council Thursday, the maximum square-footage requirement forcing builders to apply for a conditional use permit has been increased to 28,000 square feet. As has been the case since the ordinance was originally passed, developers will still have to pay for studies that look at the potential economic and traffic impacts of the proposed building.

In addition, Bellevue's maximum gross area footprint has been enlarged to 30,000 square feet.

In another significant change to the ordinance, council members decided to scrap the city's maximum gross floor area restriction altogether. In a related change, the council also voted to amend language in the ordinance that said no building could be more than two stories above the ground or 40 feet in height, whichever was less. The new language now simply states that the maximum height of a building shall be 40 feet.

Last week's meeting drew several local business people and developers who came to comment on the amendments.

In general, the speakers expressed support for the changes.

Nathan Fierman, an associate broker with McCann-Daech-Fenton Realtors in Hailey, said he represents several local business people who want to bring new businesses to Bellevue.

"But not if it's that restrictive," Fierman said of the original ordinance language.

The council's decision to increase the maximum size restrictions will be good for Bellevue residents and businesses alike, he said.

"I thought it was a reasonable increase and I thought it was healthy for everybody," he said. "It's a balanced view."

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