Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Court: Embattled developer can subdivide

Contested Hailey subdivision application to enter fifth year

Express Staff Writer

Since 2003, Hailey developer John Bulotti has battled with the city and neighboring residents to be allowed to subdivide and build on a lot at 911 Silverstar Dr. in the Birdwood subdivision, between Cedar Street and Della Vista Drive.

Bulotti's application, which originally started out as a quartering of the parcel but was reduced to subdividing the lot in half as a result of court-ordered mediation, received a shot in the arm after the Idaho Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Birdwood Subdivision Homeowners' Association on Dec. 24. Bulotti will bring the matter back before the City Council on Monday, Jan. 14.

The association had sought to overturn a 2006 District Court ruling that granted Bulotti the right to subdivide. However, that does not mean he will be allowed to build on his land.

Bulotti's application has been rejected by the City Council twice and three times by the Planning and Zoning Commission, with the greatest concern stemming from the fact that the parcel lies within a FEMA-designated floodplain.

Most recently, the P&Z denied Bulotti's application at a meeting on Nov. 19, 2007, basing its decision on the possibility that development of the lot could increase flood height. That meant the project didn't fulfill the criteria for a floodplain development permit and, therefore, couldn't receive approval for a preliminary plat. A requirement to obtain a floodplain development permit was part of significant changes made to the city's Flood Hazard Ordinance in 2003.

"Had this been in place earlier, there would be a great deal more open space down there," City Planner Diane Shay said. "A lot of those houses wouldn't be there."

After the City Council recommended in April that Bulotti obtain a hydrology study to determine the site's optimal building envelopes, he hired Twin Falls-based Brockway Engineers to do so. However, the P&Z later ruled that new construction on the property, of which about 80 percent is within the floodplain, could have adverse effects on the surrounding area.

Despite that denial, Bulotti will return to the council, armed at least with the court's latest ruling.

"It will certainly help and take an arrow out of their quiver," Bulotti's attorney, Gary Slette said. "As well, it's not uncommon for the P&Z to make a recommendation that the council disagrees with."

However, Planning Director Beth Robrahn said the decision on the appeal probably won't have much weight in the council's decision since it did not address the issue of floodplain construction.

"I think we've got really good floodplain standards now and we have to stick to them," she said.

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