Friday, August 13, 2004

Carey faces switch from rural to urban

Development application pushes rural town?s growth decisions

Express Staff Writer

Carey, a traditional agricultural community on the eastern edge of Blaine County, is facing a new era of urban growth in the 21st century.

Next week the Carey City Council will review an application for a 62-lot housing development that is the largest the city has ever seen. The application for a planned unit development called the Lakes at Waterford is the first of three major projects being forwarded by veteran developer Dick Duncan, who until recently was the director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

The public meeting on the Lakes at Waterford project will be at Carey City Hall Tuesday, Aug. 17, at 7 p.m.

The application comes as the new Carey High School nears completion and a new Sinclair service station to be called ?Cas-tle?s Corner? is going up at the Sun Valley Junction of U.S. 93 and U.S. 20.

Also, after three attempts, the water and sewer district has finally found a suitable secondary well to bring current municipal services up to standard for fire flows and redundancy. However, new development will require even more improvements, said Carey Mayor Rick Baird.

Duncan?s Lakes at Waterford project is a proposal for 10,000- to 12,000-square foot lots intended for single family homes. The project proposal includes about five to six acres of open space and a lake.

The two other projects on Duncan?s list--a 50-unit duplex project to be called Waterford Village and a three-phase project with 44 lots in the first phase called Victoria Farm--are currently being reviewed by the Carey Planning and Zoning Commission. The projects also include five to six acres of green space, Duncan said.

Baird said the recent pressure of development applications is coming faster than anyone in city government expected. Never-theless, he added, the commissioners and council members re-sponsible for review are up to the task.

The city has contracted with planning consultant John Gaed-dert with the Corporation for Land Planning & Engineering to assist part-time city administrator Linda Patterson with the current load of applications.

Gaeddert was the Blaine County planner until 1992, when he was hired to write a comprehensive plan for Carey.

?I have a high degree of affection for Carey since it was my first contract,? Gaeddert said. He added that he is concerned that Carey city government could become overwhelmed by the pres-sure of development applications, but he said the city has the po-tential to do some great planning.

The city is currently looking for a replacement for Patterson, and other staff changes could also be in the works.

If all of Duncan?s projects are approved, the growth would essentially double the size of the city and the number of hook ups to the Carey Water and Sewer District.

?We have to make sure applications are in compliance with the comprehensive plan and city ordinances,? Baird said. ?The city council?s motto is that new subdivisions will not cost current tax-payers a cent. It?s a huge challenge. Growth is coming faster than (anyone) anticipated.?

Duncan for one did anticipate the growth and took advantage of his development experience to get his foot in the door. He and his partners, John Sherer and Charlie Holtz, closed on the pur-chase of the Lakes at Waterford property located east of the Carey School earlier in the summer.

Duncan explained his reason for investing in the community is that Carey is the only place where he perceives a niche for homes that meet the financial needs of people with the median incomes in the county.

Duncan said that if a 6 percent growth rate in the county population occurs over the next year, with 3.2 people per home, then 375 homes need to be built.

?One-hundred-ninty of those homes need to be built at reason-able prices,? Duncan said. He added that he doesn?t see many options for cheaper housing in the county outside of Carey.

Duncan said getting his projects through the review process has not been a breeze.

?As a developer you want to get approval as quickly as possi-ble,? Duncan said. He added that part of the process has been to get annexation approval from the water and sewer district since the boundaries of the taxing district are not exactly the same as those of the city.

Despite the extra work for Duncan, he said he thinks the city has been doing a good job covering its bases and thinking about the future. ?I think Carey has the potential to be a really nice town,? he said.

The Lakes at Waterford project went before the planning and zoning commission several times before it was approved for council review.

?There is a lot of speculation in the development world right now,? Baird said. ?We are rookies in facing professional develop-ers but the council and the commission are very intelligent and very loyal to the community,? Baird said. ?They will do what?s necessary to keep Carey a fantastic place to live still in 5 to 10 years.?

Baird said there are different opinions about how Carey should grow, but he believes the city is well positioned to remain one of the best-kept secrets in the county.

One of the major hurdles for Duncan was to develop a new well that would be donated to the community. What looks to be a successful well is being installed on property near the Carey School where the duplex development is planned.

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