Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Strahorn subdivision is back on the table

Developer undeterred by uncertain economy

Express Staff Writer

Despite an extended downturn in the housing market, developer Jeff Pfaeffle hopes to move ahead with plans to build 170 homes in Slaughterhouse Canyon northeast of Bellevue.

After a year spent reviewing studies on the potential impacts Pfaeffle's plans would have on the town, the City Council held the first of several public hearings Thursday night on the possible annexation of 100 acres of Pfaeffle's property, now part of Blaine County.

About half of those acres, and additional property within Bellevue city limits, would be used for the proposed Strahorn subdivision.

"The city has been moving forward on this for the last three years," said City Administrator Tom Blanchard, who has been working with the developer, city staff and outside consultants to develop an annexation agreement based on the fiscal impacts to the city.

A draft of that agreement will be made available during a public meeting at Bellevue City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 5:30 p.m.

Other members of the "annexation team" at Bellevue City Hall include City Attorney Rick Allington, Planning and Zoning Administrator Craig Eckles and Councilman Gene Ramsey.

To date the developer has spent $378,305 in consultation and administration fees associated with the annexation proposal. In addition, he is offering the city $5,146,300 in cash, property and city infrastructure improvements in exchange for hooking up to city services. The payments would come to the city when final build-out occurs, which could take many years.

Under the proposed agreement, Pfaeffle will give the city $500,000 in five years, or when he begins Phase 1 of the development. He will then pay the city $250,000 every five years, or at whatever time he begins each of the consecutive three phases.

"If the market does not warrant development, the city of Bellevue will still receive benefits under this agreement," Pfaeffle said.

"Both parties get what they need, which is security," he said. "The development can begin when the time is right, whether that is in one year, five years or 10 years."

Under the proposed annexation agreement, Pfaeffle will be allowed to build at higher densities than currently allowed under county zoning requirements.

When Pfaeffle began negotiations with the city in 2005, it had reported annual growth rates of 4.9 percent for several years. However, Blanchard said, the growth rate in the last two years has been "practically zero."

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