Friday, March 23, 2012

Lane Ranch North project revived

Sun Valley City Council sets site visit for proposed subdivision

Express Staff Writer

Nils Ribi

A development project envisioned in Sun Valley more than a decade ago is once again gaining steam.

Representatives for Ponascea LLC appeared before the City Council on March 15 with multiple applications pertaining to a proposed development on a small part of their 166 acres of land east of and adjacent to Weyyakin subdivision, bordered on the south by Elkhorn Road and Lane Ranch subdivision.

"It's a large property," said project representative Peter O'Neill. "When it's all done, perhaps as much as 16 [acres] would look different than it does today."

The applicant is hoping to change the comprehensive plan's land-use designations on the Future Land Use Map from Recreational to Low-Density Residential.

The proposal includes a development agreement that, O'Neill said, "assures the city that what is built ultimately is what has been presented and promised."

Also under the agreement, landowners would donate three parcels of land to the Sun Valley Water and Sewer District. One would be used for a booster station for a water re-use reservoir, another the reservoir itself and the third for a potable-water storage tank. Easements for access and re-use water pipeline also would be included.

The water re-use proposal, a new part of the plan, would apply "gray water"—partially treated wastewater—to irrigate the Elkhorn Golf Course or possibly for snowmaking. The Elkhorn Golf Course is the city's largest summertime water user, according to a staff report. Applying potable water to the course could compromise fire protection reserves if the water is not properly managed. Irrigating with re-use water would eliminate the need for a new well for water, the report states.

"It's clearly a major public benefit," O'Neill said.

Evan Robertson, attorney for the sewer district, said the Elkhorn Golf Course uses up to 500,000 gallons of water per day. Tapping reused water means that doesn't have to come out of the ground.


"It's a huge savings in terms of pumping water out of the aquifer," he said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission had height and location concerns when Ponascea submitted the project last year.

Following site visits and public hearings in October and early this year, the P&Z recommended approval of the applications, with refinements; the applicant placed more stringent height and location restrictions on the four-lot development before submitting the plan to the council.

The land in question has been designated as a special site because it has significant slopes, knolls, ridgelines and wildlife habitat, according to a staff report.

"As such, we're extremely cognizant of the fact that it had to be planned with a great deal of sensitivity to preserving its natural features and minimizing any visual impact for the community," O'Neill said.

Councilman Nils Ribi said he appreciated the applicant's effort to adhere to the comprehensive plan and the hillside ordinance.

"I think you focused in on where the concerns could possibly be," he said.

Ketchum resident Bob Kesting said during the public hearing that he has followed the project's process.

"I think Pete O'Neill and his team have done a tremendous job in trying to mitigate the issues that P&Z proposed," he said.

Kesting said the project's possible benefits of job creation and real estate taxes should be considered, and the water reuse idea is appealing to him as a skier and golfer.

"I just think it's a great program," he said.

The City Council opted to hold a site visit before taking action. That visit is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, with a continuation of the public hearing.

Rebecca Meany:

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