Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Judge orders Sun Valley to pay fees

Triumph Springs debate could head to Supreme Court

Express Staff Writer

A district judge ordered the city of Sun Valley last week to pay for unreasonable interpretation of its own city code concerning the city's denial of a request to build a private road.

The decision concerns a long-contested application by Lane Ranch Partnership to build a private road accessing the Triumph Springs property in Sun Valley. The site at issue is located immediately north of Elkhorn Road across from Lane Ranch subdivision, not far from the intersection of Elkhorn Road and state Highway 75.

"I think the judge was telling the city they have to abide by their own ordinances ... There is no free-wheeling interpretation of the ordinances by the city," said Gary Slette, attorney for Lane Ranch Partnership.

In May, the 5th District Court in Hailey ruled that the city must review the application it denied in 2004. The court ruled last week that Lane Ranch Partnership is entitled to an award of attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the case. The judge instructed the developer to submit a bill to the city. The amount of the bill has not been determined.

"The award of attorney fees sends a message to the electorate that they need to be weighing in. ... No one likes to pay attorney fees for the other side," Slette said.

Sun Valley City Attorney Rand Peebles said the city will appeal the court's decision to the Idaho Supreme Court. The appeal will place any costs associated with the case on hold until a Supreme Court decision is issued.

"The Supreme Court's job will be to determine if the city reasonably interpreted their ordinances. And I am confident they will so find that the city reasonably interpreted their ordinances," Peebles said.

The case first went before 5th District Judge Robert Elgee after landowner Lane Ranch Partnership appealed the city's decision to reject a road construction permit for the hillside property.

The court ruled that the city improperly required a design-review process or subdivision development approval prior to the construction of the road. The court declared that construction of a road does not necessitate either requirement.

The decision came after council members denied an appeal from Lane Ranch Partnership to permit a private access road to its land on the southwest side of Dollar Mountain. In 2004, the council opposed building a road, without first knowing what purpose the road would serve, and opposed the potentially large degree of hillside cuts.

The debate over the Triumph Springs property has endured for some five years, starting with a 2001 application by Lane Ranch Partnership to rezone a portion of the 166-acre site, which included a proposal to build an access road into the area.

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