Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sun Valley eyes new plans for ?Gateway?

Council to review comprehensive plan amendments

Express Staff Writer

The city of Sun Valley this week will consider yet another land-use scenario for the city's signature western entrance lands known as the "gateway." The City Council will consider a configuration for future development along Sun Valley Road at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18, and 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, during a discussion to amend the city's comprehensive plan and the adjoining land use maps.

The city's 2005 comprehensive plan update 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 proposed comprehensive plan amendments come as part of 13 pending changes to land-use regulations that the council will take action on this month.

The council agreed in July to bring its land-use regulations to be consistent with the 2005 comprehensive plan update, the city's guiding land-use document, before the November election. Implementation of the comprehensive plan is fast-tracked, pursuant to a private-property-rights-oriented initiative—Proposition 2—which has qualified for the November ballot. The land-use changes were previously scheduled to take place over the next two years.

Comprehensive plan amendments

The proposed amendments to the comprehensive plan include three updated natural resource maps, background on designated special historical, ecological and scenic sites, and a preferred development configuration of Sun Valley's gateway entrance lands and Horseman's Center.

The latest land-use scenario for the lands along Sun Valley Road depicts future residential townhome development at the toe of the hill on the west side of Sun Valley Road. Thirty additional multi-family units are allocated to the north end of Penny Hill. The remaining lands on the west side of Sun Valley Road are designated as open space. The narrative description encourages a transfer of density along the western side of Sun Valley Road to allow the western pasture to remain as open space.

Low- to medium-density residential development, with a total of 28 units including workforce housing, is allocated to the two-acre meadow behind the red barn on Sun Valley Road. And, the Horseman's Center is proposed to be included in the planning area and designated for public or quasi-public uses.

The city held four public meetings in early August followed by an annual town hall meeting in September to consider various hypothetical situations for the gateway property. During the town hall meeting, Mayor Jon Thorson presented a configuration with development allocated to the Horseman's Center on the east side of Sun Valley Road and to Penny Hill.

The town hall proposal broke 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. Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman opposed the scenario presented during the town hall meeting.

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

The comprehensive plan designates Penny Hill as open space and distributes existing development rights located around the hill to lands elsewhere in the Gateway Land Use Planning area.

Development code update

The City Council will also consider adopting a unified development code this week, which includes changes to the city's official zoning districts to preserve open space in the city. The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission voted in August to recommend the changes.

The Open Space district would preserve environmentally sensitive lands or undeveloped natural areas that have significant value. They would be limited to passive, recreational use.

The development code effort involves smaller housekeeping items such as organizing and clarifying design-review criteria to recommending larger policy changes to zoning districts, riparian building setbacks, wireless communication facility regulations and annexation policy procedures.

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