Friday, September 15, 2006

Croy Creek Ranch decision delayed

Neighbors reiterate concerns about proposed subdivision

Express Staff Writer

Following last-minute changes submitted by the developer, the Blaine County Commission has postponed making a decision on a proposed subdivision in Croy Creek Canyon, west of Hailey.

Known as Croy Creek Ranch, the proposal has met with intense opposition from nearby homeowners, who contend the 34-lot, cluster-style development is too dense for the rural area.

To build the subdivision as proposed, developer David Alexander needs to obtain a rezone for most of the 471-acre property, from A-20 to A-10, the least restrictive zoning permitted for a planned-unit development. Developed as a PUD, the subdivision would be eligible for a 20 percent density bonus and could be built on lots smaller than the zoning would otherwise allow. Alexander proposes to place 30 of the subdivision's lots on 1.5 acres each, contained in four clusters. The trade-off for the added density would be more open space surrounding it.

The commission was expected to make a ruling on the rezone application Tuesday. However, commissioners said they needed more time to consider the changes and were obligated to give the public an opportunity to respond to them. They set a deadline of Sept. 28 to receive written public comment and a date of Tuesday, Oct. 3, to deliberate on the issue, and presumably to vote on it.

Though the commissioners also set a deadline of Sept. 26 to receive anything more from the applicant, Commissioner Tom Bowman said he'd "like to see that the material we received today is the final product." Continuous amendments to the application, Bowman said, put the commission in a "ridiculous position."

None of the recently submitted changes affects the cluster style of the proposed development, and testimony presented during Tuesday's public hearing indicated that they hadn't mollified its opponents.

Speaking on behalf of the development, engineer Dick Fosbury said the changes include a reduction in size of the subdivision's four large lots from 40 acres to 15 acres, and in their building envelopes from five acres to three acres.

He said subdivision regulations would put a 5,000-square-foot limit on house size, including garages.

He said a one-acre parcel in the subdivision's northeast corner would be dedicated to the Blaine County Fire District for a fire station.

Also, Fosbury said, an offer to build six deed-restricted, affordable housing units in Hailey was back on the table. That had been part of the original proposal, but had been changed to an offer to pay $300,000 to the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority. Fosbury said there had never been an offer to build any on-site affordable housing.

"That was misunderstood," he said.

However, he said, the developer had intended all along to reserve six of the subdivision's lots for sale to local residents.

Fosbury said the developer also proposed to allow homeowners to build attached dwelling units. The application had passed the Planning and Zoning Commission with a prohibition on such units.

"I hear the desire to mitigate some of the housing demand so we're trying to accomplish that," he said.

Though Commissioner Sarah Michael asked members of the public to direct their testimony to the recently submitted changes, almost all of the 11 people who spoke repeated their original objections to the subdivision's density.

"One of the reasons I moved out here three years ago was the rural character of the area," Richard Conway said. "One of the concerns I have with this project is that it appears to be an urban environment in a rural area."

Judy Harrison, a member of the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission, said the county's comprehensive plan is intended to protect areas such as Croy Creek Canyon from inappropriate development. She said the Croy Creek Ranch application had changed "dramatically" since it passed the P&Z.

In an interview, county Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves said it is up to the county commissioners to determine whether "material changes" had been made to the proposal since its approval, and to send it back to the P&Z if they determined that they had been.

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