Friday, July 25, 2008

Crown Ranch saga almost over

11-unit development nears approval


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

After a 30-minute visit to the site of the proposed 11-unit Crown Point Phase 5 townhouse development, the Sun Valley City Council reconvened to City Hall where, at press time Thursday, they appeared ready to approve the project.

Landscape architect Doug Logan walked members of the council and public along the vacant bench that sits to the south of the existing Crown Ranch subdivision in Elkhorn, with Crown Ranch Road to the north and the terminus of Lupine Drive to the south.

This meeting was one of many on an issue that sparked a lawsuit from the developers against the city in 2003.

The developers of the 3.3-acre parcel of land, which would be located below a new road below the ridge overlooking The Ranch neighborhood, are proposing an 11-unit subdivision as an addition to the existing 26 homes.

In 2003, the developer proposed a 13-unit subdivision, which was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, but denied by the council. The applicant subsequently filed an action for judicial review and that litigation is ongoing. The current proposal is an attempt at a conditional settlement, which would end the litigation.

The city began deliberating on the settlement agreement last Thursday, but continued the meeting in order to visit the site and gain more information before voting.

Approval of the plan as currently proposed has been opposed by the Crown Ranch Homeowners Association, which argued that the houses are too large, especially due to their hillside location.

Because of the original date of the application, Sun Valley Community Development Director stated that the development would not come under the regulations of the city's hillside ordinance.

Utilizing digital simulations that imposed the proposed project on actual photographs of the area as it exists today, the developer showed that only a few chimneys and rooftop ridges would be visible from Lupine Road. As well, the new development would blend in with the existing subdivision when viewed from the area around the Elkhorn Clubhouse.

The proposed road would provide access to the Sun Valley water tank located further up the hill, behind the development.

The townhouses would all have two floors facing this road and three floors on the downhill side, which faces the existing Crown Ranch Road, and would be made out of wood, stone and stucco.

During the meeting, a number of neighborhood residents spoke against the project because it goes against the principles behind the hillside ordinance and takes away natural view.

However, Evan Robertson, attorney for the developer, countered that the project does indeed mitigate its impacts, considering over 60 units would be allowed on the property under the current zoning.

"Based on site visit and computer simulations, I would be more comfortable saying it's visible, rather than highly visible," Councilwoman Joan Lamb said during the council deliberation portion of the meeting.

For Councilman Dave Chase, the project highlighted a different problem—that of energy conservation—as the development would include heated driveways. While Chase didn't want to single out this particular developer, he said that with the addition of the Sun Valley Pavilion, the power consumption in the city would continue to rise.

Construction on the development won't begin until spring 2009. See mtexpress.com for final details Friday.

In other Sun Valley news:

· The Sun Valley City Council is set to approve its preliminary budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

The council will hold a special meeting Tuesday, July 29, following numerous budget workshops that have taken place over the last two months.

After a meeting on Tuesday, Mayor Wayne Willich said that next year's budget would come in around $7 million, with local option taxes estimated to bring in $1.4 million of that total.

Willich said that in the current projections, $835,000 would be earmarked for planned street improvements.

He added that the city would likely see savings in the upcoming year due to the fact that the city is not involved in any outstanding litigation.

· Sun Valley recently made a major upgrade to its website, installing a program that allows visitors to listen to both City Council, and Planning and Zoning meetings online. This streaming audio feature, hosted by the company Granicus Inc., is the first for all municipalities in Idaho.

Listeners can access archived files and instantaneously skip to their topics of interest.

The audio files can be found at www.sunvalley.govoffice.com.




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