Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bellevue moves forward on area of city impact ordinance

Eccles' attorneys recommend changes to ordinance

Express Staff Writer

Representatives from the Flying Hat Ranch, belonging to Utah billionaire Spencer Eccles, attended a public hearing last week on Bellevue’s area of city impact ordinance.

Bellevue officials want some say in the way land surrounding that city is developed. Last week, property owners adjacent to the city limits were given a chance to participate in an agreement that could shape those developments into the foreseeable future.

Bellevue Planning and Zoning Director Craig Eckles presented the first draft of an area of city impact ordinance to the City Council on Thursday night. The ordinance, consisting of a map and text, would be used to confer with county officials on developments that could impact city services, infrastructure or quality of life.

"This ACI is only a document between the city and the county so that the city can comment on developments made nearby," Eccles said. "The county still has full jurisdiction over land within the county."

The proposed ACI ordinance also provides criteria for annexation into the city limits, including provisions for walkability, connectivity, public access and open space requirements. These provisions follow guidelines set out by the Bellevue Comprehensive Plan, established in 2002.

Bellevue officials have reviewed three annexation requests in the last three years, two of which have been withdrawn.

Bellevue residents Mary Alma and Jessica Trager raised concerns Thursday over the impact of future annexations.

"Where is the water going to come from?" asked Alma. "You've already taken Seamons Creek away from us. I want to know where the rest is going to come from."

City officials also heard from representatives of the 700-acre Flying Hat Ranch north of Bellevue, which belongs to Utah billionaire Spencer Eccles. In 2000, Eccles requested that portions of his property, spanning the distance between Bellevue and Hailey, be annexed into Hailey. The annexation request was opposed by Bellevue officials at the time, who said it could bring light industrial development to the edge of the city limits.

Eccles' attorney Evan Roberts questioned the legality of several clauses in the ACI ordinance Thursday night. Primary among them was language that would require Eccles to seek permission from the city of Bellevue to annex into the city of Hailey.

ACI ordinances are also being drafted and re-worked by Hailey and Blaine County.

"Eventually Bellevue's ACI will be the county's ordinance," said Bellevue City Attorney Rick Allington.

Revisions to the county's ordinance, which will eventually trump all others, call for an agricultural zone of undeveloped property between Bellevue and Hailey on land belonging to Eccles. This area, known as the Heritage Zone, would reduce sprawl and keep the boundaries of the two cities distinct from one another.

"It will be interesting to see what the ordinance looks like when it is all finished," Allington said.

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