Friday, August 19, 2011

City gets earful on development plan

Residents want Sun Valley to adhere to comp plan

Express Staff Writer

People protesting the application line up in front of Sun Valley City Hall Thursday afternoon. Photo by David N. Seelig

Under sunny skies Wednesday, the Sun Valley City Council got a clear view of land under consideration for possible future development. Less clear is what may happen on that land, when it may take place, or how it will be received by the public.

Council members, the mayor and city staff made site visits to the following areas during a special meeting Aug. 17: Prospector Hill land use planning area; Sun Valley Lake; commercial core land use planning area; Horseman/Community School land use planning area; and Gateway land use planning area. The visits were related to Sun Valley Co.'s request for revisions to the text of the city's comprehensive plan and changes to designations of the future-land-use map as they apply to company land.

"This is a fact-finding visit for city council members," said Mayor Wayne Willich. No public comment was taken until the public hearing Thursday afternoon. That meeting took place at the adjacent city maintenance building to accommodate the more than 125 people in attendance.

Only one resident spoke in favor of the application, Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia. Testimony opposing the application continued Thursday afternoon into press time.

Although Sun Valley Co. is not asking for a rezone at this time, it may in the future.

"What Sun Valley Co.'s asking for is, here's the current vision," Mark Hofman, Sun Valley community development director said. "They're saying, I want to tweak here, here and here.'"

If or when an application is approved, Sun Valley Co. could then bring in a zoning map application for all the differences.

"The zoning maps are based on the comprehensive (plan) land-use map, so the comprehensive land-use map sets the stage for the zoning map change," said Councilwoman Joan Lamb.


Many residents have voiced frustration that the city is not adhering to the comprehensive plan, which was a collaborative effort among citizens, the city and Sun Valley Co.

Although the comp plan is a guiding document, it is not an ordinance, cautioned City Attorney Adam King.

"The Supreme Court has made it very clear that the comp plan and the future land use (map) grant no rights and no expectations to property owners or to the city," he said. "There's no vested rights at all in future land use."

That doesn't mean the city can't or shouldn't consider the comprehensive plan when making land-use decisions.

Hofman said many comments the city has received make the argument, "If you're going to go through a process and capture the community's vision and we elect you, please honor that," he said. "That's completely separate from legal."

Sun Valley resident Deborra Bohrer participated in the Wednesday site visit.

"I wanted to see what is being proposed," she said. "It doesn't seem like there's been an open, public explanation. Open process is very important. I'm glad to see they're accommodating that (now)."

Bohrer said she's not opposed to development, if it's thought through.

"I'm very much in favor of development, as long as it's responsible, smart development," she said.

Richard Smooke expressed concern about how development would affect Sun Valley's identity.

"The minute you take away the open space and views, you change the community," he said, looking downward from Prospector Hill, with a view of sagebrush stretching to Elkhorn Road.

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