Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Gun Club development moves forward

Significant issues remain in wake of preliminary plat approval

Express Staff Writer

Click to download (PDF) This rendering shows the proposed sites for 30 single-family homes that are part of Sun Valley Co.’s Gun Club development. The project also includes five parcels for multi-family homes and the new Gun Club 9 golf course. Graphic courtesy of Design Workshop

After approximately four and a half hours of tension-filled deliberation, Sun Valley Co. came away from City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 21, with preliminary plat approval of its huge Gun Club residential development.

However, the marathon meeting of the Sun Valley City Council, which lasted from 4 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., resulted in a list of significant challenges to be resolved before any construction can take place.

The development, as presented by Rebecca Zimmerman, an owner and president of the international planning firm Design Workshop, would consist of 30 lots for single-family homes and 330 condominium units on more than 300 acres at the northeast edge of Sun Valley Village. The site, located on either side of Trail Creek Road, includes the new Gun Club 9 golf course.

Three streets would be built to access the development—Sun Peak Drive, Diamond Back Road and Monarch Lane.

The meeting was marked by a frustrated outburst from Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman, who charged council members with dragging their feet on the resort's proposed development.

"Mr. Holding has done everything a good land owner could do," Huffman said, using the golf clubhouse and music pavilion, both currently under construction, as examples of what Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding has provided the community.

Huffman said the company has been working on the plan since 2002 when the Sun Valley mayor required Sun Valley Co. to create a master plan.

"This is getting old. If you don't want to let Earl develop, just tell him," Huffman said, punctuating his emotional expression by storming out of the room.

"I'm out of here," he said.

Huffman's departure came on the heels of concerns voiced by Councilwoman Joan Lamb regarding design guidelines for the 30 single-family homes. As proposed, there would not be a homeowners' association to enforce the guidelines, but the city does not want to be burdened with this responsibility either.

As a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, Lamb had already seen the design guidelines prior to the P&Z's recommendation to approve the project in 2006. Huffman said Lamb was contradicting herself by raising questions about the guidelines at this point in the process.

Lamb responded by saying the city has never held up one of the company's developments and that the city needs to carry out the proper due diligence.

"We want to get it done, but we have to follow the law," Councilman Nils Ribi said in agreement with Lamb.

Huffman returned to the meeting and his frustration gave way to an elated satisfaction when the council approved not only the preliminary plat, but also a related zone map amendment and a conditional-use permit for the planned unit development.

The actions affect the 30 single-family lots, whose estimated value is $2 million each and $6 million after home construction, the Gun Club 9 golf course and five multi-family home parcels.

Councilman Ribi said the company would have to come back before the council for preliminary plat approval to develop the multi-family home parcels.

According to Zimmerman, the project's buildout will take eight to 12 years, with the first five single-family homes built in 2009 and 45 multi-family homes built in 2010.

The work between the city and company is far from over, as the council laid out a number of conditions, in addition to the guidelines, that need to be resolved before a final plat is approved.

In an interview, Ribi said the two biggest issues, out of approximately 20, are inclusionary housing and water.

The company has proposed to fulfill the majority of its inclusionary housing obligation with a $1.25 million contribution to the Lincoln County Home Equity Partnership. However, the council did not appear to accept that proposal as meeting the city's housing ordinance.

"I thought we lived in Blaine County," quipped Councilman Dave Chase.

As with all of the conditions, there was no response regarding that issue from the company during the meeting.

"It definitely doesn't fit with our ordinance," Ribi later said of the company's housing proposal, adding that the city will stick to the existing code. "We don't want to hold them up, but we need to make sure we're deliberate and careful with these questions."

Sun Valley's inclusionary housing code requires 15 percent of the total number of dwelling units to be set aside for inclusionary housing, though there is some flexibility to allow for in-lieu fees.

Ribi said that while the city will work through the issues within its control in a timely manner, the water issue could take longer, as the Department of Environmental Quality, not the city, has to review water storage and use.

Other issues are ownership of the development's roads, public play on the new golf course, a bus turnout and relocation of the bike path.

City Administrator Jerry Osterman said the economic impacts on the city are being analyzed, but that because of the phasing of the project, the incremental impacts would be manageable from the city's standpoint.

Osterman said City Attorney Rand Peebles and Community Development Director Mark Hofman are working together to finalize the proper wording of the city's conditions by Friday.

However, no further schedule has been given as to when these conditions will be negotiated with Sun Valley Co.

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