Friday, March 3, 2006

Developers pitch Bellevue annexations

Town hall meeting on proposal draws large audience

Express Staff Writer

Before a large standing room only crowd Tuesday at the Bellevue Elementary School, Wood River Valley developers Harry Rinker and John Scherer laid out plans to have their combined properties covering approximately 560 acres annexed into the city of Bellevue.

The two properties are located south of the Muldoon Ranch subdivision, east of the Gannett-Picabo Road, north of the Griffin Ranch subdivision and west of the foothills administered by the Shoshone field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The land is currently managed as working farmland.

The town hall-style meeting hosted by the developers drew a number of comments from residents who expressed various concerns about the proposal.

Marie Stewart, a resident of the Griffin Ranch subdivision south of Bellevue, said her primary concerns are related to the impacts added residential lighting will have on the night sky and increased traffic on Gannett Road. "The glow from the city already is amazing," Stewart said.

Stewart also questioned what impact drivers from the proposed 1,000 housing units would have on the already busy Gannett-Picabo Road. "That's a lot of extra traffic," she said.

Bellevue resident Florence Blanchard asked whether the developers have considered low impact landscaping to cut down on overall maintenance and water use.

Yes, they will, said David Clinger, a Denver land planner hired by Rinker to design his portion of the development. "We're going to try to encourage xeriscaping," Clinger said.

The term xeriscape refers to landscaping that promotes water conservation through the thoughtful use of appropriate drought-tolerant plants.

Rinker and Scherer first brought their joint proposal before the Bellevue City Council on Oct. 18. If approved by the city, the additions would nearly double the size of Bellevue.

One of the next steps in the annexation process is for the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission to begin considering both the proposals as well as a new Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance.

As outlined in the meeting Tuesday, the combined development proposals by Rinker and Scherer include a mix of about 1,000 single- and multi-family housing units. Additionally, the proposals also include two light industrial areas, a small-scale retail area and the preservation of some areas as open space.

A 50-acre portion of the combined properties also has been designated for use as a joint Bellevue elementary and junior-high school site.

All of the presenters associated with the proposed annexations made a point of highlighting the family-friendly essence of the proposed development. Specifically, Clinger and others touted the development as being pedestrian-friendly, walkable villages.

The development won't be of a typical suburban design, Clinger said. Rather, it will be a place where mothers can safely take their children out in strollers and kids can walk to school, he said. "We design neighborhoods, we don't design subdivisions."

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