Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Developers eye homesites above Sun Valley

DeNovo Properties plans upscale homes on former mining lands


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer


An out-of-state development company that purchased an 848-acre former mining property, shown here on the map, will presents its plans to clean up the environmentally degraded property to the public at a meeting in Hailey later today.

If developers have their way, an upscale neighborhood could someday sprout on the hills above Independence Gulch just southeast of Sun Valley city limits.

Proposed by DeNovo Properties, a Chicago- and Indianapolis-based development company, the Independence project envisions 15 homesites. DeNovo says the project would offer the highest-elevation residential area in the valley.

But before construction workers can go to work building these retreats, DeNovo will confront a number of large hurdles. Perhaps the most significant is the 848-acre property's past mining history.

Purchased by DeNovo last October, the property spans both sides of a ridge that separates Sun Valley from the East Fork of the Big Wood River. DeNovo hopes to complete an environmental cleanup and closure of the former Triumph, Independence and North Star mines on the property by the end of the year.

The project is being conducted through a voluntary cleanup program in partnership with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. The silver mines, which began operating in the 1880s, have been dormant for the past 40 years. The mines' remnants are in three areas of the property encompassing about 50 acres.

DeNovo, which works to clean up and redevelop environmentally degraded properties around the country, has submitted applications to DEQ and Blaine County as part of its cleanup proposal. The project would include the closure of open mine shafts, removal of hazardous remnants of past mining and onsite storage of contaminated tailings.

Later today, Wednesday, April 15, DeNovo representatives will host a public open house to discuss the planned environmental remediation actions. The open house, in Room 301 at the Community Campus at 1050 Fox Acres Rd. in Hailey, will run from 1-3:30 p.m.

The DeNovo meeting will be followed at the same location by a public hearing hosted by DEQ at 6:30 p.m. The agency will take public comment.

DeNovo sees the cleanup effort as the first phase of its vision for the isolated property, said Ryan Cronk, a lead developer working on the project for DeNovo. Follow-up plans are included in three applications the company has submitted to the city of Sun Valley.

They include a request by DeNovo to have the Sun Valley comprehensive plan's future land-use map amended so it identifies the portion of the property that drains into Independence Gulch. That section, which would be identified for possible future expansion by the city, totals 251 acres. If city officials approve that request, the company will then ask the city to annex that portion of the property into the city.

"We absolutely want to be in Sun Valley," Cronk said.

DeNovo intends to leave the rest of the property on the East Fork side—which totals just under 600 acres—in the county.

Because the DeNovo land does not directly abut city limits, the company is asking Sun Valley officials to also annex 177 acres of Sawtooth National Forest land in the bottom of Independence Gulch. That would connect the DeNovo land to the city, a requirement for annexation.

An existing road that runs up Independence Gulch from Sun Valley would provide access to the residential lots DeNovo envisions.

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the comprehensive plan amendment request on Thursday, April 23, at 9 a.m. Because city officials expect a large showing, the meeting will be held in the Continental Room at the Sun Valley Inn.

DeNovo's final application to the city is a subdivision request.

The company has committed to preserving 85 percent of the property as open space once the cleanup and construction project is complete, Cronk said. It also intends to construct a network of public trails connecting Independence Gulch with the East Fork and the Pioneer Mountains.

Cronk said that regardless of the outcome of the Sun Valley applications, DeNovo is committed to completing the environmental cleanup effort.

"We're not going away," he said.

Jason Kauffman: jkauffman@mtexpress.com




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