Friday, July 13, 2007

Where to the future of McHanville?

Valley residents join elected officials to discuss highly visible area

Express Staff Writer


Across the Wood River Valley, there are a number of properties whose development futures generate intense public debate and controversy.

And then there's the McHanville area.

The wedge-shaped sliver of land, located directly between St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and state Highway 75 several miles south of Ketchum, has been a topic of vociferous debate for decades.

A public workshop held at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge in Sun Valley Tuesday was just the latest go around for the contentious area. During the meeting, which was facilitated by Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen, about 100 participants, mostly hailing from the north half of the Wood River Valley, took part in a public polling session meant to elicit opinions on what the future of the area should look like.

"I was very pleased with the level of participation," Schoen said.

To be exact, the workshop wasn't concerned specifically with just the McHanville area. The future of adjacent areas, including the undeveloped bench area along Cold Springs Road west of the hospital, and the large area between Broadway Run Road and state Highway 75 and the intersection next to the hospital and Gimlet Road were also discussed during the meeting.

Coordinating the polling during the workshop was Jeff Winston, of Winston Associates, based in Boulder, Colo. The county has hired Winston to conduct the polling in the run up to what may be a future public hearing process before the county Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission on possible rezoning for the area, "which I hope is well underway by the end of the year," Schoen said.

In all, four separate development and rezone scenarios were highlighted for the public during the several-hours-long workshop.

Scenario A would essentially retain everything as it currently is. Under the preliminary low-density plan the McHanville area would retain its residential zoning. The upper bench would stay low-density residential zoning, and commercial and residential zoning in the area south of the Highway 75 intersection would also remain.

Alternatively, scenarios B, C and D would include increasing levels of density and mixed-use commercial and residential zoning in the area. The three preliminary scenarios would all include a community park off of Broadway Run Road, while scenarios C and D have land set aside for a future elementary school off of Highway 75 just north of where the Clear Creek industrial area.

Schoen said the two most significant impressions he took away from the workshop were the public's general support for zoning the McHanville area mixed-use commercial and residential and their belief that the bench area adjacent to Cold Springs Road is an appropriate area for residential development.

Zoning the McHanville area to allow for both commercial and residential uses would make currently non-conforming uses in the area conforming, he said.

Schoen said he also took away from the meeting a feeling that the public believes affordable housing is an appropriate use in the area.

One significant hurdle that will certainly need addressing is traffic and roadway design in the area.

"One of the big constraints we have in that area is the highway," Schoen said.

Schoen said no decisions have been made yet about the future of McHanville and adjacent areas. Tuesday's workshop and any subsequent meetings will be an open process for discussing various zoning options.

The next public workshop related to drafting a master plan for McHanville and surrounding areas will likely happen within six weeks, in mid or late August.

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