The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission rejected Monday a number of recommended changes to the city’s comprehensive plan that would have accommodated an annexation that could nearly double the size of the city.
“Let’s just slow down and think about this,” said P&Z Chairman Chase Gouley.
Gouley led an effort to reject several recommendations made by Planning Director Craig Eckles that would have allowed for increased commercial “strip development,” removal of the city’s stated goal to keep a clear separation between the cities of Bellevue and Hailey, and removal of requirements that new development “be compatible to each other and their natural setting.”
“Developers have to play by the rules,” Gouley said. “Why are we designing for them?”
The 700-acre Flying Hat Ranch north of Bellevue belongs to the family of Utah billionaire Spencer Eccles. The Eccles family asked the city of Bellevue in June to annex 227 acres of its ranch, all of the property between Bellevue and Hailey along the east side of Highway 75.
Despite an absence of proposed development details, the annexation was recommended by the P&Z unanimously to the City Council. The City Council now awaits a $6,000 study to determine the financial impact of the annexation to the city’s services and capital improvement plan before reviewing an annexation agreement that will be written by the Eccles group and city staff.
Bellevue Mayor Chris Koch has not announced the schedule for public hearings to gather input on the proposed annexation.
Bellevue residents, including a former mayor and a former city administrator, crowded City Hall on Monday night. They succeeded in pushing the P&Z Commission to request from the City Council the formation of a citizens’ committee to review the 48-page proposed comprehensive plan, especially as it relates to the Eccles annexation request.
Eckles rewrote the comprehensive plan last week with help from city attorney Rick Allington. Eckles said in an interview that the changes were made as part of his regular duties.
“As the development service director, my job is to make sure that our planning tools, the actual law-zoning ordinances, are compliant with Idaho Code and that the vision, [the] comprehensive plan, is reviewed and updated/amended with the changes that have occurred via ordinance repeals, lack of adoptions, change of times, census data, etc.,” Eckles wrote in an e-mail.
Several people at the meeting Monday said they think certain proposed changes to the comprehensive plan pertained directly to the requested Eccles annexation, which would bring 91 acres of business zoning (and potentially big-box stores) along Highway 75 between Bellevue and Hailey.
“This language is developer-driven,” said former City Administrator Tom Blanchard. “This needs to be parsed in a manner where people can exchange ideas. We have always done this. There are a lot of people here who would like to work with the city on this.”
Eckles called for removal of language pertaining to the Area of City Impact ordinance. He said the language should be stricken because Blaine County did not sign the document years ago (due to a dispute of transfers of development rights) that would have designated potential growth areas.
“The ACI does not exist,” Eckles said.
Eckles also recommended adding numerous clauses from Idaho law regarding compensation for private property during the process of city planning. He also recommended removal of a planned “future acquisitions map” that would designate possible sites for schools, parks and other public uses.
Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson advised the P&Z commissioners to not remove the Area of City Impact Future Land Use Map, which includes growth boundaries for the city. The ACI map would limit the Eccles annexation to a line at the city’s current northerly limit, at Kirtley Street and the entrance to Chantrelle subdivision.
Williamson also advised the commissioners to add language that would require detailed plans for any development, prior to annexation.
Eckles recommended adding language in the comprehensive plan that would conform to laws that have been passed since the last time the comprehensive plan was reviewed, in 2010, including language regarding planned-unit developments, shared parking, the period of time allowed to complete a building, and noise advisories to land owners living under flight paths of airplanes landing at Friedman Memorial Airport.
Eckles also included updated census figures that show that Bellevue’s growth rate has declined from 4.9 percent to .006 percent over the past eight years. He said at current growth rates, and with a recent annexation in Slaughterhouse Canyon of the 150-lot Strahorn subdivision, the city’s infill development would be built out in 2091.
“There was lots of growth that did not happen,” Eckles said.
The citizens’ committee, if it is approved, would be composed of appointees by the Bellevue City Council, Eckles said. He said a proposed draft of the city’s comprehensive plan, with changes approved Monday night, will be discussed at a public hearing on Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.