Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Citizen sues Sun Valley over rezone request

Express Staff Writer

The city of Sun Valley's denial of a citizen request for standing to rezone a neighboring property has prompted a suit against the city.

Sun Valley resident Paul Connolly filed a lawsuit against Sun Valley on June 15 in 5th District Court in Hailey. The lawsuit arises from the city's refusal to grant Connolly standing to request a rezone of a neighboring property. Connolly wants the court to determine whether he has standing to request a rezone.

"There is language in the ordinance I believe is clear that I have standing. The administration should honor that language," Connolly said.

Connolly, who owns a condominium in the Ridge condominiums in Elkhorn, wrote a letter to the city in January to formally request the city consider changing the Sunshine Parcel from Commercial Center zoning to Medium Density-Residential zoning.

The Sunshine Parcel 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's Ridge condominium is adjacent to the Sunshine property. And, he believes his authority to request a rezone rests in city code, which states "owners ... of real property to be affected by a proposed change, may initiate a request for a change."

In response to Connolly's request to change the Sunshine Parcel zoning, Community Development Director Mark Hofman determined that Connolly did not have standing to request a rezone. Connolly appealed the decision to the P&Z. In April, the P&Z voted to uphold Hofman's decision that a neighbor, with no legal or equitable interest, could not request the rezone. Connolly appealed the decision to the Sun Valley City Council. The City Council voted 3-1 in May against an appeal for the city to process such a request for a citizen rezone. Councilman Nils Ribi dissented.

During the council's deliberations of the matter, City Attorney Rand Peebles advised the council that a citizen must hold legal or equitable interest in the property to file a rezone application. Peebles said Connolly's interpretation could have expansive implications in the city.

According to the document filed with the court, Connolly was denied due process. As stated in the complaint, the city's denial of Connolly's request violates statutes, was unlawful, arbitrary and capricious. The argument contends that the city's ordinance is unconstitutionally vague, ambiguous and overly broad.

The city of Sun Valley has six weeks to respond, and has not yet filed a response with the court.

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