Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bellevue should take time to listen to citizens



    As a county commissioner, I worked collaboratively with three out of four Bellevue mayors and sought the city’s and Bellevue citizens’ input on a number of issues. Now, I hope the city of Bellevue will seek public input into the proposed changes to the Bellevue Comprehensive Plan.
    The Sept. 18, 2014, draft proposes to eliminate language that discourages “isolated commercial development in outlying areas and in the proposed Area of City Impact (ACI).”  The changes are driven by the desire to accommodate the annexation request of Spence Eccles, which maps 91 acres of strip business development along Highway 75 between the borders of Bellevue and Hailey.
    The draft plan also changes the intent of the current plan to keep undeveloped lands on the west side of Highway 75 for open space, eliminates language promoting a dark sky ordinance, beautification of downtown, and affordable housing as city goals. These are just a few of the Comprehensive Plan rewrites, which appear to radically change the vision and values held for decades by the citizens of Bellevue.  
    Comprehensive plans should be citizen-driven documents, not changed for a particular developer. It reminds me of when developers came to Blaine County asking us to change our plan to allow a new city just south of Timmerman Hill. Blaine County has five cities already. Without citizens and community officials demanding the need for another one, we just said no.
    If the city of Bellevue adopts Eccles’ vision, and changes the Comprehensive Plan to support strip mall development, it will impact the economy and quality of life for Bellevue and the entire Wood River Valley. Studies show that box stores bring low wages, create fewer jobs and represent crippling competition for locally owned businesses.
    Bad decisions are made when there is a rush to accommodate developers and citizens are not engaged in thoughtful deliberation and meaningful input. I hope that the city of Bellevue will take the necessary time to vet the concerns of the majority of its citizens so that any changes to the Comprehensive Plan will truly reflect their values now and into the future.
Sarah Michael
Blaine County commissioner from 2001-2008




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