Wednesday, April 6, 2011

For Sun Valley, a bit more impact?

Plan to expand area of city impact goes to next level


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


The city of Sun Valley asked Blaine County to add more than 7,000 acres to its area of city impact, county land over which the city has commenting authority. However, only the McHanville area south and west of the city was approved by the county Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday, while tie votes on two areas south of the city place pressure on the county commissioners to make a final ruling. Courtesy graphic

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission didn't get everything it wanted at last week's discussion of an expanded area of city impact, but it still may get what it needs.

Both it and its counterpart in Blaine County have been developing proposals as part of a required renegotiation process for the area. The proposals will next be put before the two P&Zs' respective governing boards—the Sun Valley City Council and the Blaine County Commission.

The county P&Z voted Thursday to recommend reducing Sun Valley's area of impact by about 800 acres to the north while allowing it to expand southward into the McHanville District along state Highway 75.

The Sun Valley P&Z asked for seven parcels of land totaling almost 7,000 acres.

Under state law, a city can only annex land that is within its area of city impact. Changes to that area indicate a city may expand future development in those areas, though annexation is not a requirement. An area-of-city-impact agreement between the county and a city gives the city more commenting power over land included in its area of impact, but under an agreement between Sun Valley and Blaine County, the county's ordinances still apply.

The city and county are required to review areas of impact every 10 years.

"This is our 10-year tune-up," said Mark Hofman, Sun Valley community planning director. "There is no intention of annexation. We are not a developer. We don't intend to be controversial."

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Hofman said the city's goal is mainly to improve its status regarding the area when providing comments to federal agencies such as the BLM.

The BLM has recently escalated land trades and sales in the south valley, and Hofman said including nearby BLM land in Sun Valley's area of impact would ensure that the city is notified and can comment if similar exchanges are proposed on nearby land.

"Those lands around our city need to be preserved," City Councilman Nils Ribi said.

Blaine County P&Z Commissioner Jo Lowe said she understands Sun Valley's concerns.

"The BLM and other federal agencies can do things that are not in our interest," she said Thursday. "It's important for local citizens to have a voice."

A tie vote on BLM land south of the city near Elkhorn, some of which is already in the area of impact, throws the final decision to the county commissioners and the Sun Valley City Council.

The McHanville area was the only area unanimously recommended for inclusion. The neighborhood has been tapped for affordable housing plans in the past, though it currently comprises commercial and residential buildings.

Hofman and Ribi said they did not want to annex the area, just include it in the discussion. Lisa Horowitz, community and economic development director for the city of Ketchum, stated in a letter sent to the county last month that Ketchum might want to include McHanville in its area of impact.

The recommendations will be passed to the Sun Valley City Council and the county commissioners for discussion and potential approval. Hofman said the goal date for completion is by the end of the summer.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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