Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Sun Valley devises plan to keep ?gateway? open

Express Staff Writer

A public suggestion led to a starkly different land-use scenario for Sun Valley's signature western entrance, known as the "gateway."

The city of Sun Valley considered various arrangements last week of the open lands on the area's east and west sides along Sun Valley Road.

"We have to create density somewhere. I think the places the density has been created is about the best option. ... Having the sacred west side of Sun Valley Road as open space is paramount," Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commissioner David Brown said.

The Sun Valley City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission held four public meetings Aug. 2 and 3, facilitated by a consultant, to evaluate scenarios for the city's gateway lands.

Consultant Jeff Winston, principal of Colorado-based Winston Associates, presented various hypothetical situations for the gateway property using three-dimensional computer models. During his visit, the models were manipulated and updated according to the comments received.

Near the end of discussions, the council decided to break from the city's 2005 comprehensive plan update and the Sun Valley Co. long-term master plan, to allocate a site for future residential development to the Horsemen's Center on the west side of Sun Valley Road and to Penny Hill. The plan will be presented during a town hall meeting at 3 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 5, at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge in Sun Valley.

Under a configuration prompted by a public comment, Sun Valley Co.'s 125 units of development rights would be concentrated at the eight-acre Horsemen's Center site and on three additional acres to the south. Additional low-density residential development would be at the base of Penny Hill, accessed from Saddle Road. Under current zoning, all residential development rights in the area exist at Penny Hill.

The council moved in favor of preserving the pastoral view corridor on the west side of Sun Valley Road as open space. The land will be designated open space, which would not allow building of any kind. Open Space and Limited Recreation land-use designations are assigned to the lands behind the Sun Valley barn. Under the city's current regulations, both areas are designated Open Recreation, allowing recreational facilities such as an ice rink or tennis court to be built.

"I think the continuity of the mountains and the meadows is part of what you treasure," Winston said.

As written, the city's 2005 Comprehensive Plan suggests an undisturbed corridor of open-space land stretching on the west side of Sun Valley Road to the Saddle Road intersection, with medium-density residential development set at the foot of the hills. Medium-density residential development is allowed on the lands to the east of Sun Valley Road behind the Sun Valley barn stretching to the Horsemen's Center. Under the comprehensive plan, Penny Hill is designated as open space.

"For some reason when we did (the comp plan), we all felt Penny Hill had to stay open. I don't know we did the right thing," Councilwoman Ann Agnew said.

City officials, Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman, Winston, and local citizens agreed that density is better placed near the Sun Valley Village core to facilitate economic vitality, transit and pedestrian access. The plan also concentrates the gateway residential development adjacent to the Sun Valley Co.-owned Cottonwood Parcel, which is zoned for approximately 400 units.

The council will likely take action in October.

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