Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bellevue P&Z endorses Slaughterhouse annexation

Express Staff Writer

The city of Bellevue is one step closer to expanding by 100 acres northeast of its current city limits into the bottom end of Slaughterhouse Canyon.

The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission last Thursday deliberated at length before finally recommending approval of the proposed annexation.

The commission's move sets in motion the Bellevue City Council's final consideration of the proposed annexation. The council has the ultimate decision-making authority to say yes or no to the Slaughterhouse Canyon plan.

At their meeting tomorrow, Sept. 14, the council will officially receive the commission's recommendation.

Last Thursday's meeting follows up on a series of earlier P&Z meetings held over the past few months where commissioners considered the proposed annexation's potential impacts on the city and what developer contributions should be required to mitigate those impacts.

During the meetings, the commissioners focused on three main issues critical to their approval of the annexation: the availability of water, impacts on traffic and pedestrian pathways, and connectivity.

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

The official name of Pfaeffle's proposed development is Strahorn Canyon Ranch. A 10.6-acre portion of the proposed development already lies within Bellevue city limits.

Pfaeffle owns an additional 62 acres farther out Slaughterhouse Canyon that are not being proposed for annexation or development at this time. During previous meetings, Pfaeffle has indicated a willingness to potentially grant that land either to the city or an organization such as the Wood River Land Trust for permanent protection as community open space.

As envisioned by Pfaeffle, the 100-acre portion of Strahorn Canyon Ranch under consideration for annexation would eventually include 150 houses built over four distinct construction phases.

Last Thursday, Bellevue commissioners spent perhaps the greatest amount of time discussing how much of an affordable housing contribution Pfaeffle should be required to make.

"Annexations are the opportunity for us to address our deficit," P&Z Commissioner Kathryn Goldman said.

In the end, the P&Z recommended that 25 percent of the units proposed within the 100-acre annexation portion of the project should be dedicated as deed-restricted work force or community housing units. This works out to roughly 38 affordable housing units out of the annexation portion's 150 total units.

In their recommendation for approval, P&Z commissioners also included a number of mitigations they believe must be addressed before the annexation may proceed. These include, but are not limited to:

· Reducing the impact that 1,700 vehicles at buildout will have on Elm Street, Pine Street and, particularly, Cedar Street, which is 16 feet wide in places and considered overly steep.

· Improving the traffic and parking congestion at Bellevue's O'Donnell Park.

· Improving the failing road levels of service conditions at state Highway 75 and Pine Street with a traffic signal.

· Decreasing demands on already sub-standard levels of service for all city services and departments including the marshal's office, Fire Department and library.

· Upgrading the city's water and sewer system, especially because the project relies on the city's water rights and infrastructure for all its irrigation, potable water and fire protection purposes.

Progress on Bellevue's two other annexation proposals on a combined 550 acres of land south of town are awaiting action as the city considers the Slaughterhouse Canyon proposal.

The two properties, owned by Wood River Valley landowners Harry Rinker and John Scherer, are located south of the Muldoon Ranch subdivision, east of Gannett Road, north of the Griffin Ranch subdivision, and west of the foothills owned primarily by the Bureau of Land Management.

Combined, developers have proposed to build about 1,000 residential housing units on the two properties in addition to a small portion of commercial real estate. Together, the Rinker and Scherer properties would nearly double the size of Bellevue if they're eventually annexed.

As he was leaving the meeting last week, Pfaeffle thanked commissioners for their hard work.

"I hope it's warmed you up for Harry (Rinker) and John (Scherer)," Pfaeffle said.

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