Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Light Industrial zone stirs up stumbling block for Belle Ranch

P&Z uncertain of Bellevue?s needs

Express Staff Writer

With Bellevue set to potentially triple in size, it's no wonder city officials are moving cautiously when it comes to the proposed annexation of approximately 550 acres.

The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission proved no exception at its meeting on Thursday, April 19, as commissioners continued to debate the inclusion of around 20 acres of a light industrial area in John Scherer's proposed 281-acre Belle Ranch development.

P&Z Administrator Craig Eckles noted that Bellevue city consultant Richard Caplan has found that light industrial land uses are more fiscally beneficial to a city than purely residential development.

"Most residential development does not routinely 'break even' in terms of costs of services," Caplan wrote in a letter to Eckles on April 11.

While the commissioners agreed Bellevue will need more space for light industry as the city develops, they wondered if Scherer's proposal would be necessary if the City Council approves Harry Rinker's annexation proposal that includes 18 acres of light industrial.

Currently, the light industrial area is scheduled as part of the first phase of construction in Scherer's plan, but Commissioner Adam McNae asked if it would be possible to push it back until they could determine the city's need for this type of development.

Although there was only a very small number of Bellevue citizens in attendance, they were quick to speak out against what they perceived as too much light industrial.

"I think we're moving way too fast, way too soon," said former councilman Jon Wilkes.

Fellow Bellevue resident Kate Giese took it one step further, questioning the total size of the recently proposed developments.

"I know the city needs to grow," said Giese. "But looking at (the Rinker, Scherer and Pfaeffle) annexations, why do we need to do it all now?"

Along with the light industrial issue, the commissioners and public expressed displeasure at the seeming discrepancy between the developer's idea of a walk-to-work community and the proposed amount of deed-restricted housing.

Dick Fosbury, the project's representative at the meeting, said the plan included 4 percent deed-restricted housing, as opposed to the 14 percent required by city ordinance.

In response, Laira Thomas, chair of the P&Z, asked how the developers plan on keeping the price of their affordable housing down in the future if the deeds are not restricted.

As none of these questions were answered to their satisfaction, the commissioners agreed to continue the public hearing to May 3.

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