Friday, June 27, 2014

Neighbor sues over Quail Creek project

Lawsuits seek nullification of county approval

Express Staff Writer

    ARCH Community Housing is proceeding with a $6.5 million subsidized rental housing project south of Ketchum despite the filing of a lawsuit by a neighbor seeking to have county approval of the project nullified.
    The Ketchum-based nonprofit hopes to build its price-restricted Quail Creek Townhomes development on about two acres of donated land adjacent to state Highway 75 just north of Cold Springs Drive. It would have eight one-bedroom units, eight two-bedroom units and 10 three-bedroom units.
    The site is on part of a 23-acre parcel that was slated to become the location of a 126-unit, part market-rate, part restricted-rate project also called Quail Creek proposed by Clear Creek developers in 2004. However, that project stalled due to litigation and the housing downturn, and Clear Creek donated the 2.1 acres to ARCH to fulfill its community-housing obligation.
    Michael Engl, who owns property across the highway from the site, filed two lawsuits in Blaine County 5th District Court on June 10 and June 24 objecting to decisions by the county commissioners approving ARCH’s community-housing planned-unit development and approving an amendment to Clear Creek’s PUD relating to the land transfer.
    Engl’s complaints raise numerous technical issues involved in the decisions, including:
l    That county ordinance does not permit an in-lieu contribution to an affordable-housing obligation after the first building permit has been issued.
l    That the ARCH project impermissibly increases density over the original Clear Creek project.
l    That the commissioners’ decision to reduce setback requirements from the highway for one of the project’s access roads violated procedure set forth in county ordinance.
    The suits ask that the commissioners’ decisions be remanded to the board for reconsideration.

Michelle Griffith, the head of ARCH, said her organization does not expect the suits to be successful.
    The project would be funded by about $5 million in low-income federal tax credits purchased by private parties, and by about $1 million in HOME loans from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Griffith said investors who have bought the tax credits are aware of the suits and also do not expect them to succeed.
    Target completion date for the project is fall 2015.

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