Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Committee eyes comp plan revisions

Bellevue panel to discuss ‘strip development’ and ‘visual corridor’ on Thursday

Express Staff Writer

    A Bellevue citizens committee that met Thursday, Oct. 2, to review changes recommended by Planning Director Craig Eckles to the city’s comprehensive plan recommended reversing some decisions made three weeks ago by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
    The amendments to the comprehensive plan, which could be finalized at a public hearing on Oct. 27, could have far-ranging impacts on how and where Bellevue is developed over the next 10 years.
    On Thursday, Oct. 9, at 6 p.m., the committee will review recommendations to allow for increased commercial “strip development” and removal of the city’s stated goal to keep a clear separation between the cities of Bellevue and Hailey.
    The Great Recession of 2008 reduced property values in Bellevue by nearly 50 percent over a five year period and left the city with about 1,388 fewer residents than it expected in 2015. Yet, property values have been increasing since 2012.
    These are some of the data that will likely be included in the city’s revised comprehensive plan, which will provide guidelines for city leaders as they consider annexation of 227 acres on the Eccles Ranch that could nearly double the size of Bellevue (population 2,300).
    Committee member Fran McDonald, a Friends of the Howard Preserve member, questioned the inclusion of recession-era data in the comprehensive plan, even as the economy is showing signs of improvement.
    “I think it is wrong to include this in long-term planning,” McDonald said.
    “Data is data,” countered committee member Pat Rainey, a Bellevue firefighter and business owner.
    Dick Fairfield, a retired dentist, home builder/developer and Bellevue Urban Renewal Agency member, led the committee meeting, which pushed half way through the 48-page document in about one and a half hours.
    Dan Gearheart, a resident of Chantrelle subdivision and FAA flight procedures director, kept mostly silent during the meeting.
    The P&Z Commission called for formation of the citizens committee two weeks ago because its members deemed several of Eckles’ recommendations to be overly accommodating to the Utah-billionaire Eccles family. The Eccles plan includes adding to Bellevue 91 acres of Business zoning along state Highway 75 between Bellevue and Hailey. As now proposed, the annexation would also include 43 acres of Residential zoning, both at the southern edge of Bellevue and away from the highway to the east on a hillside.
    The northern end of the proposed annexation would be composed of 28 acres of Light Industrial zoning, alongside existing LI zoning in Woodside at the southern end of Hailey, and 14 acres of Light Industrial-Mixed Business zoning at the entrance to the city—32 acres of mixed-use zoning would buffer neighborhoods from the commercial areas.

The city now projects a 0.006 growth rate that will result in a population of 2,300 next year.

    P&Z Chairman Chase Gouley led an effort last month to reject several recommendations made by Eckles, including his proposal to allow for increased commercial “strip development,” and removal of the city’s stated goal to keep a clear separation between the cities of Bellevue and Hailey.
    The committee voted Tuesday to reverse the P&Z Commission’s removal of a requirement that new development “be compatible to each other and their natural setting.”         
    The committee approved new language that states that employment is expected to grow as new businesses are “transitioning from former non-conforming residential uses on Main Street in the Business and Light Industrial zone,” and voted to strike language in the plan written to “establish growth boundaries” to “indicate the target community size for Bellevue.”
The committee also voted to replace “growth plan” with “annexation” in the comprehensive plan language, and to include in its annexation reviews a detailed survey of city properties.
    The changes approved so far by the committee include landscaping requirements that will not create a consumptive burden on the city’s potable water system. Yet, Rainey led an effort to repeal one of Eckles’ recommendations that trees or plants not be required if they obscure store fronts.
    “I happen to like trees,” he said. “I would not like to allow businesses to cut them down.”
    The proposed new comprehensive plan states that Bellevue’s net assessed property values dropped precipitously during the recession, from $348 million in 2007 to $164 million in 2014.
    The plan states that the value of a 6,000-square-foot lot in Bellevue has increased 20 percent in the last two years, from $32,513 to $39,666.
    The city’s estimated 4.9 percent growth rate in 2002 projected a population of 3,688 by 2015. The city now projects a 0.006 growth rate that will result in a population of 2,300 next year, including 19 new residents at the new Bell Mountain care facility.  
    The proposed comprehensive plan states that under current growth projections (and without the Eccles annexation) the city’s infill would be developed by the year 2091.
    The citizens committee will meet as many times as deemed necessary before Oct. 21.
    All changes recommended by the citizens committee will be turned over to the city clerk on Wednesday, Oct. 22.  
    The P&Z will also receive the committee’s document on Oct. 22 for its review prior to a public hearing on Monday, Oct. 27, at 6 p.m.

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