Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bellevue P&Z rejects transit center

Panel denies changes to zoning laws for Mountain Rides

Express Staff Writer

The Bellevue Planning and Commission last week decided that it will not recommend to the City Council that the council approve changes to zoning laws to accommodate a transit center on this site adjacent to state Highway 75. Photo by Roland Lane

A plan to put a Mountain Rides bus storage and transit center on Main Street in Bellevue met with vociferous local opposition last Thursday at a meeting of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The P&Z voted unanimously not to recommend changes to the city’s Light Industrial zoning requirements to accommodate the transit center, stating that such changes are not in compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan. 

“It’s a scary thing to make text changes for special uses,” Commissioner Levi Sali said.

Commercial real estate agent Paul Kenny and the new owner of the property, Gannett Road LLC, applied for the text changes in November after conversation between Mountain Rides and Planning Director Craig Eckles.

The Bellevue comprehensive plan calls for businesses to be on the site, in part to build taxable revenues for city coffers.

Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller was joined by several board members and supporters to tout the transportation agency’s record of service to the community, saying its buses and vans serve Bellevue with 16,800 rides per year, about 12 percent of its total ridership.

Yet locals protested making an ordinance change to accommodate Mountain Rides, a process that would take off the tax rolls a three-acre parcel between Highway 75 and Gannett Road that until recently was supplying the city with substantial tax revenue.

“It is business developments that sustain the city,” said Broadford Road resident Marilyn Plott. “Bellevue is no longer a giveaway city. Mountain Rides is not a business use, but is a public service agency, funded by federal, state and local funding sources and subsidies.”

Miller sought changes from the commission to buy the land with an $800,000 federal grant and about $200,000 from other Mountain Rides funding. 

The changes would have allowed for a bus-storage and maintenance facility, a 46-space park-and-ride lot, and administrative offices and a passenger waiting area.

Miller proposed that Mountain Rides forego paying the current $4,000 in annual tax revenue gained by the city from the property as an “in-kind” contribution from Bellevue, which has contributed nothing to Mountain Rides since 2009, when the city gave $3,000.

About $1.3 million of Mountain Rides’ $2.3 million annual budget comes from Blaine County and its municipalities. Ketchum pays $522,000 per year, Blaine County $123,000 and Hailey $65,000. The city of Sun Valley this year reduced its contribution from $275,000 to $250,000.

“As far as Bellevue not paying its way,” said Muldoon Canyon resident Brad Baker, “I see a $800,000 federal grant. I’ve paid plenty of [federal] taxes. I have provided enough support for Mountain Rides.”

Until two years ago, the property in question in Bellevue supported a thriving landscaping business. Eckles said the company had an annual payroll of $3 million and employed 140 people.

Assistant Fire Chief Trent Shoemaker said that when the lot is built out, it could bring enough revenue to provide an annual payment for the city’s new fire truck, and that he’s already turning away volunteers for the Fire Department because the city cannot afford to train them.

“That’s a hard pill to swallow,” Shoemaker said.

Tony Evans:

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