Friday, July 14, 2006

Bellevue giving close scrutiny to annexation

P&Z takes first look at Slaughterhouse Canyon proposal

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum developer Jeff Pfaeffle, left, and Mike Choat of Galena Engineering are among several representatives requesting the city of Bellevue annex approximately 100 acres of land in Slaughterhouse Canyon. Pfaeffle owns the land for the proposed development, which is called the Strahorn Canyon Ranch. Express file photo

Meetings of the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission typically don't draw many local residents, but that wasn't the case on Wednesday.

Filling every seat and standing in just about every corner of Bellevue City Hall were legions of residents who arrived to watch and listen as P&Z commissioners began official consideration of annexing 100 acres of land in Slaughterhouse Canyon.

While the P&Z is charged with making a recommendation to the Bellevue City Council on certain items related to the annexation, it is the City Council that will make the final decision on whether to annex the Slaughterhouse Canyon property.

Owned by Ketchum-area real estate agent and developer Jeff Pfaeffle, the property is just one of three separate parcels of land Bellevue is considering for possible annexation. The property is adjacent to the northeast corner of Bellevue's city limits and is undeveloped.

Should annexation and development plans be approved, Pfaeffle proposes to call the development Strahorn Canyon Ranch.

As currently envisioned by the developer, Strahorn Canyon Ranch would eventually include 150 homes built over four distinct construction phases.

The development would include a number of sub-neighborhoods, all connected by a main parkway and a series of smaller neighborhood roadways. Tracts of community open space totaling 38 percent of the development would buffer neighborhoods from each other.

The land could be deeded to an entity like the Wood River Land Trust or the city of Bellevue, he said.

"We're very keen on trying to preserve some of that open space," Pfaeffle said.

The neighborhood would include a range of single-family housing types, from simple to luxurious. Project architect William Selvage of Boise said the housing types were carefully selected and will match adjacent neighborhoods.

"These are products that have worked here in Idaho," Selvage said.

Developers of Strahorn Canyon Ranch are also proposing to build an internal system of pathways linking the entire community.

The overall design of Pfaeffle's Strahorn Canyon Ranch is still quite preliminary. Before being considered for final approval, the annexation and development will have to go through a rigorous public review process.

Key issues of concern, highlighted both by commissioners and local residents on Wednesday, include impacts on traffic, the availability of water and how the impacts of various development phases will be mitigated well into the future.

Citing a study that says single-family homes typically generate nine vehicle trips per day, Bellevue resident Dorothy Schinella questioned whether the city's aging road system could handle the added impacts of drivers from Strahorn Canyon Ranch.

"It's too much," she said.

In a letter addressed to P&Z commissioners, Bellevue resident Lisa Admire voiced similar concerns.

Admire said she lives on the corner of North Sixth and Cedar streets. Cedar Street would be the most direct route to access the proposed development, she said.

"Traffic on this street is constantly speeding," Admire said. "The hill above the Sixth Street intersection does not have a stop sign, and traffic barrels through here."

In terms of water supply and delivery, many questioned whether the property would impact the city too much.

"I'm questioning whether there is enough water," Bellevue resident Leslie Fairbrother said, noting that Bellevue doesn't have enough to go around as things are.

P&Z Commissioner Grant Horne questioned who will fund upgrades to city infrastructure that are made necessary by the impacts of the development. "Is the developer still responsible to make these upgrades?" Horne asked City Attorney Jim Phillips.

Phillips said those types of details would be spelled out in an annexation agreement that binds developers to funding mitigating measures.

"Obligation will run with the land," he said.

Commissioners put off further discussion to a special meeting set for 7 p.m. on Aug. 7.

The delay should give developers and the city time to return to the bargaining table with more answers.

"I just couldn't make a recommendation for annexation without further clarifications," Commissioner Kathryn Goldman said.

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