Friday, April 28, 2006

Sun Valley denies rezone petition

Express Staff Writer

A citizen request to rezone the Sunshine Parcel in Elkhorn hit a hurdle Tuesday, when the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission denied an appeal for the city to process such a request.

"My personal feeling is this an issue the City Council should be resolving ... It's a policy issue," Commissioner David Brown said. "Should the city allow an ordinary citizen to propose a rezone to property the citizen doesn't own?"

At issue is a request by Sun Valley resident Paul Connolly for standing to request the city change the zoning of the 4.26-acre Sunshine Parcel from Commercial Center zoning to Medium Density-Residential zoning, or RM-1. The property is situated on the west side of Village Way between Elkhorn Village and Sunburst condominiums. It is in front of the Indian Springs condominiums and adjacent to the northern section of the new Elkhorn Springs development.

Connolly, who owns a condominium in the adjacent Ridge condominiums, wrote a letter to the city in January to formally request the city consider the change, which would eliminate commercial uses of the property and reduce the density and height allowances.

Commissioner Ken Herich made a motion at the April 20 meeting to uphold Community Development Director Mark Hofman's decision that Connolly does not have standing to request the rezone. Commissioners Herich, Phil Usher and Joan Lamb voted in favor of the motion. Commissioner John Gaeddert recused himself. Brown abstained.

"Its clear to me that the drafters of the ordinance didn't want to open that can of worms, that anyone can apply to rezone anyone else's property," Herich said.

Connolly said his authority rests in city code, which states "owners of real property to be affected by a proposed change may initiate a request for a change" by filing a written application with the commission and paying an established fee. He said the city has criteria to define a person affected by a proposed change, that is a person living within 300 feet of the exterior boundary lines of the property. Connolly said that the more than 60 letters submitted to the city that petition for a rezone should also necessitate a rezone hearing.

City Attorney Rand Peebles advised the commission otherwise. He said that a citizen must hold legal or equitable interest in the property to file a rezone application. He also said the letters had nothing to do with Connolly's appeal for standing. The commission sided with the attorney.

Connolly said he will file the appeal with the City Council.

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