Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Two annexations proposed in Bellevue

If approved, plans would nearly double the size of city

Express Staff Writer

Wood River Valley developers Harry Rinker and John Scherer last week laid out their plans to have approximately 560 combined acres they own annexed into the city of Bellevue. The two adjacent properties, shown here, are located south of Bellevue and east of the Gannett-Picabo Road.

For now, the view south of Bellevue takes in a lengthy expanse of cultivated fields punctuated by occasional circular center-pivot irrigation systems. East of the active farmland, open, grass-covered hillsides rise up several thousand feet to the top of Lookout Peak.

Only the wind blowing by, the hum of occasional tractors during warmer months and the distant muffled sounds of Bellevue break the silence of this most bucolic scene.

In time, all this may change.

At some point in the not-so-distant future, the hammer and bang of residential construction, first, and the contemporary sounds of urban life, second, may replace these agrarian echoes of the Wood River Valley's past.

The owners of two large properties spanning the distance between Bellevue on the north and the Griffin Ranch subdivision on the south have requested their combined 560 acres be annexed into the city of Bellevue.

Late last Thursday, in a public hearing before the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission, landowners Harry Rinker and John Scherer made their first official appeal to have the two properties annexed.

During separate presentations, the landowners told P&Z commissioners and local citizens why their developments won't harm the character of Bellevue.

"We've got to leave you better off," Scherer told the Bellevue residents. "We understand that."

Whether that's possible or not will be weighed by P&Z commissioners and, ultimately, members of the Bellevue City Council.

Rinker and Scherer's combined properties are located south of the Muldoon Ranch subdivision, east of Gannett Road, north of the Griffin Ranch subdivision, and west of the foothills managed primarily by the Shoshone office of the Bureau of Land Management.

Rinker's proposed development would include a mix of home types—including single-family homes, large and small; townhomes; and duplexes—in addition to a light-industrial park and a village square with a chapel, daycare center, office space, and a number of small retail shops. The proposed development on Rinker's approximately 270 acres would consist of 609 residential units, which would equate to approximately 2.4 housing units per acre.

The development would also include four small neighborhood parks, a southern extension of the paved Wood River Trails system and a designated wildlife corridor and open space area along Seamans Creek and adjoining BLM lands to the east.

Rinker tapped Denver-based land planner David Clinger to draw up an initial master plan. Clinger has designed projects such as the Pines development in Ketchum and Harris Ranch, a large development located in southeast Boise.

Clinger said he designed the development as a "walkable village."

Scherer's development would be similar but somewhat less dense than Rinker's. In addition to setting aside several areas for parks and open space, Scherer's development would include a variety of housing types to accommodate various price categories.

Rinker and Scherer propose to designate a joint portion of their acreages for use by the Blaine County School District as a possible future junior high school. Details of the deal between the Blaine County School District and the two landowners—including the cost for the property—haven't been released yet.

As last Thursday's meeting was likely just the first of at least several, the concerns expressed by the P&Z and the public were somewhat muted. For the most part, those who attended the meeting seemed more interested in viewing the developers' proposals.

Still, some issues did come to light during the meeting.

One of these, voiced by P&Z Commissioner Kathryn Goldman, had to do with Rinker's proposal to route a road across the proposed Seamans Creek wildlife corridor to access several estate lots perched against the eastern hillside.

Goldman suggested the road and estate lots could be detrimental to wildlife and the open space blanketing the eastern foothills. "It compromises the wildlife corridor to a great degree," she said.

Goldman promised to continue raising the issue at future meetings.

The next time the Bellevue P&Z will discuss the proposed Rinker-Scherer annexations will be at its Dec. 7 meeting.

The Bellevue City Council is already in the midst of considering another annexation proposal for Slaughterhouse Canyon, which lies just northeast of the existing Bellevue city limits. The proposed annexation is located on nearly 100 acres of land in Slaughterhouse Gulch owned by Ketchum developer Jeff Pfaeffle.

At a public meeting on Sept. 7, the Bellevue P&Z recommended approval of Pfaeffle's proposed annexation and sent it on to the City Council.

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