Friday, March 2, 2007

Bellevue nearing decision on annexation

Vote on Slaughterhouse application linked to fees

Express Staff Writer

Just one significant hurdle remains before it's clear if 100 acres in Slaughterhouse Canyon will be incorporated into the Bellevue city limits: Just how wide is Ketchum developer Jeff Pfaeffle willing to open his wallet?

"It's time to get down to dollars and cents," Bellevue Mayor Jon Anderson said Wednesday during a special meeting of the City Council.

To that end, Anderson and the council instructed the city's staff to begin negotiations with Pfaeffle over annexation fees. The key question was how much should they be in order to cover the costs and impacts the city will incur if it agrees to annex Pfaeffle's property.

The discussion should produce a figure indicating what the city believes is the true cost of mitigating those impacts, Councilman Steve Fairbrother said.

"How much money we're going to need—so at some point we can say this is the dollar figure," he said.

But not everything regarding the annexation application has been put into writing.

Details such as what areas of the property would remain as open space, how the city would service the development's water needs and what the city expects in terms of affordable housing still remain to be fully ironed out.

Pfaeffle's basic development plan for the property would place up to 150 houses on the property over the course of four distinct construction phases. The name of the proposed development is Strahorn Canyon Ranch.

The council listened to Pfaeffle and Bellevue Parks and Recreation Director Robin Stellers discuss a recent meeting they had with the Idaho Department Fish and Game officials regarding the proposed development's potential impacts on wildlife.

Of greatest concern to Fish and Game is the mule deer winter migration corridor that crosses much of the property, Pfaeffle and Stellers said.

As a result of their discussions, Pfaeffle said he agreed to tweak several aspects of his proposed development plan to accommodate requests made by the agency.

This includes the removal and relocation of three proposed lots, Pfaeffle said. The removal of the lots would widen an area of the development already set aside as open space for wildlife migration.

Pfaeffle also pointed out that he owns an additional 62 acres farther out Slaughterhouse Canyon. He is not requesting annexation for that property, and he would prefer to hand it over to an entity such as the city or the Wood River Land Trust for preservation.

Fish and Game was satisfied that the additional 62 acres of would remain quality habitat for wildlife, Pfaeffle said.

Councilwoman Beth Robrahn said she would like to see some sort of protective covenant assuring that the land would remain permanent open space, "meaning it could not be developed in the future."

The council also discussed the city's need to have better backup water reserves. Even without the annexation's additional pull on Bellevue's water system, the city needs to address the issue, council members noted.

The annexation fees the city requires of Pfaeffle could help cover some portion of the cost of improving Bellevue's water system, including the construction of an additional water tank.

Representing Pfaeffle, Mike Choat of Galena Engineering said the lack of a backup water reserve puts the city in the most danger.

"We just have to roll up our sleeves and work on it," he said.

City attorney Jim Phillips said a resolution has been reached on a water rights issue that had threatened to derail both Pfaeffle's and two other annexation applications.

The City Council had previously voted to delay any decision on the three applications until the matter was resolved. With that now complete, a vote on Pfaeffle's applications can proceed as soon as the council is ready.

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