Friday, September 15, 2006

Commission: Don't supersize Sun Valley

P&Z suggests homes be in scale with tradition

Express Staff Writer

Gargantuan homes aren't likely to consume the city of Sun Valley.

"One of the reasons Sun Valley is gorgeous is because you look around, you see trees. You don't see buildings ... The reasons for these regulations is to keep this special place," said Sun Valley P&Z Commissioner David Brown.

The Planning and Zoning Commission this week discussed establishing a maximum home size and other residential design regulations to prevent so-called "McMansion"-type development in the city. The commission will likely take action to recommend the regulations to the City Council later this month.

"The direction we have gotten from the mayor and the City Council is to reduce height and mass," Brown said.

The P&Z discussed Wednesday, Sept. 13, amending residential design regulations to maintain the traditional residential scale of the city. The 2005 update to the Sun Valley comprehensive plan, the city's guiding land-use document, directs the work.

"The intent is to protect the integrity of Sun Valley," said Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson. Thorson challenged the commission to cap residential building size at 10,000 square feet, a number consistent with regulations in Jackson, Wyo.

The average size of a home in Sun Valley is about 3,500 square feet.

Brown, along with Commissioner Phil Usher, supported the 10,000-square-foot cap. But, ultimately, the commission compromised on a 12,000-square-foot maximum building size to gain the support of Commissioner Joan Lamb.

Commissioner John Gaeddert did not attend the meeting.

Commissioner Ken Herich opposed any maximum restriction. "I'm starting to feel this whole thing is about control, controlling people's use of their land, and that's not where I am coming from," he said.

Initially, Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman also opposed the regulations and the city's frenzy to impose such regulations.

The city has accelerated the changes to land-use regulations, as set forth by the comprehensive plan, in light of Proposition 2, a citizen initiative that would require Idaho counties and cities to pay landowners whose property values are decreased by land-use laws. If passed, Proposition 2 would not apply to land-use laws already in effect.

In response to Huffman's concerns, the commission discussed the possibility of separating regulations for new development, which can be built in context to a new subdivision, as opposed to redevelopment within existing subdivisions.

Huffman said Sun Valley Co.'s "Gun Club" property would likely be developed with 7,500- to 8,000-square-foot homes.

The commission also discussed establishing a formula to provide that homes are built in proportion to their lot size. The measure would prevent monstrous homes from being built on small lots. The suggested ratio allows a 5,487-square-foot home on a half-acre lot.

To minimize the effect of new construction on adjacent landowners, the commission proposed design guidelines that would establish a minimum separation between buildings, reduce the maximum building height, and require wall planes to be broken up with architectural detail to reduce the perceived mass of a building.

The regulations provide alternative measures of compliance if an applicant demonstrates a significant hardship.

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