Friday, September 8, 2006

Sun Valley Co. rebukes gateway plan

Express Staff Writer

The land use area planning map under consideration for the city of Sun Valley?s signature western entrance depicts the meadow and the hillside on the west side of Sun Valley Road preserved as open space. The majority of development is concentrated on the Horsemen?s Center property with a portion of the development rights allocated to the northwest side of Penny Hill on Saddle Road. Presently, 112 units could be built at Penny Hill.Graphic by Gavin McNeil.

Criticism is forcing plans for Sun Valley's signature western entrance lands, known as the "gateway," back to the drawing board.

"What this plan does is force Mr. Holding or a future land owner in a judgement as to whether or not to leave the Horsemen's Center there, or build condos," said Wally Huffman, Sun Valley Co. general manager.

During the city of Sun Valley's annual town hall meeting Tuesday, Sept. 5, at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge, Mayor Jon Thorson presented the latest land-use scenario for the gateway area.

The scenario proposes open lands on the area's east and west sides along Sun Valley Road and allocates future residential development to Sun Valley's Horsemen's Center on the east side of Sun Valley Road and to Penny Hill.

"I don't think it works for Mr. Holding because of the added incentive to take away an icon—prematurely," Huffman said.

Under current zoning, all 112 residential development rights in the area exist at Penny Hill.

"It's a better option to stay where we started," Huffman said.

The proposed scenario came after the city held four public meetings in August facilitated by city consultant Jeff Winston, principal of Colorado-based Winston Associates, to consider various hypothetical situations for the gateway property.

Near the end of the previous August meetings, Huffman, Winston, city officials, and local citizens agreed that the gateway's existing density was better moved to the Horsemen's Center parcel, near the Sun Valley Village core, to facilitate economic vitality, transit, pedestrian access, and to preserve open space.

"It became clear to us that the hill dropping into the meadow (on the northwest side of Sun Valley Road) is all part of the experience," Winston said.

Winston returned this week to present the end result from the earlier meetings, a configuration, with Sun Valley Co.'s 125 units of development rights concentrated at the eight-acre Horsemen's Center site and on three additional acres to the south. The Horsemen's Center property sits adjacent to the Sun Valley Co.-owned Cottonwood property, which is zoned for approximately 400 units.

Additional low-density residential development, not to exceed 35 units, is allocated to the base of Penny Hill, accessed from Saddle Road.

Under the proposed plan, the horse pastures on the west side of Sun Valley Road are to be preserved as open space. The open space designation does not allow building of any kind. A citizen suggested the city should bond to buy the lands to preserve as open space in perpetuity.

Huffman challenged the city to explore other options and incentives, such as exempting the company from the city's workforce housing ordinances or placing the bike path on the east side of Sun Valley Road.

Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson responded, "We are committed to working with Mr. Holding, not putting it to Mr. Holding."

The proposal under consideration breaks from the city's 2005 comprehensive plan update and the Sun Valley Co. long-term master plan, which both depict development at the toe of the hill on the west side of Sun Valley Road.

Change comes as a directive from the city's 2005 comprehensive plan update. The plan directs the city to change the current gateway zoning and to refine the configuration of development in the gateway lands as presented in the plan. The City Council must approve comprehensive plan amendments.

Land changes in the city have been accelerated by a private property rights-oriented initiative that has qualified for the November ballot. If passed, the initiative would require Idaho counties and cities to pay landowners whose property values are decreased by land-use laws.

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