Friday, July 20, 2007

Bellevue closes public hearing on Rinker annexation

Council deliberation to begin in August

Express Staff Writer

After six public hearings discussing a myriad of issues surrounding developer Harry Rinker's request to annex approximately 280 acres into the city of Bellevue, City Council members agreed at a special meeting on Wednesday, July 18, to begin deliberations among themselves to weigh the costs and benefits of the project.

Rinker's project, called Woodbridge Village, would add 608 homes on property located just south of Bellevue on the east side of Gannett Road.

As in the previous public hearings, the council made no decisions, choosing instead to listen to the opinions of experts, the public and the developer.

City consultant Lori Labrum spoke about traffic issues regarding the development, explaining that her research indicates that over 14,000 vehicle trips per day will be added to the existing 15,000 cars that pass through Bellevue at the intersection of state Highway 75 and Gannett Road when the project is completed.

Dick Fosbury, of Galena Engineering, said the developers would be happy to speak with city officials and consultants on designing streets in accordance with the standards that the council began to discuss at a meeting July 10. Councilwoman Beth Robrahn expressed concern that the project needed better internal connectivity so residents wouldn't use Gannett Road to get from one end of the development to the other.

City Administrator Tom Blanchard told the council that despite current consolidation talks, the city would need to plan fire protection under the assumption that its fire department would "stand alone." He said that would require construction of two stations, one at the north end of Bellevue and the other at the north end of the Rinker annexation at a potential cost to the developers of $1.5 million.

The majority of the standing-room only crowd expressed their displeasure at the overall plan, citing increased traffic problems and future financial burdens for the city.

However, while former councilman Parke Mitchell said the city's expansion was not inevitable, fellow Bellevue resident Greg Beaver disagreed, saying that if the city didn't approve the annexation than Rinker would turn to the county, thus taking away any benefits Bellevue might reap from the project.

Both Beaver and Hailey resident Kerry Norton supported Rinker's proposal, saying that opportunities for affordable housing are extremely limited in the Wood River Valley and that this would give many people the chance to become homeowners rather than having to rent.

Mayor Jon Anderson closed the public hearing, and the council will begin its internal discussion of the project on August 15 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. While the meeting will be open to the public, the council will not take any comment.

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