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For the week of August 23 through 29, 2000

Elkhorn residents defeat Johns-Manville rezone proposal

Developers meet overwhelming opposition

"The record shows that 30 years ago Johns-Manville held this property as open space and that property owners bought their land with this understanding."

Fritz Haemmerle, an attorney representing two Elkhorn homeowners.

Express Staff Writer

In a fight to preserve open space, more than 100 Elkhorn property owners pressed for rejection of an application to rezone the "north of Bluff parcel" by Sagecreek LLC yesterday morning at the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission.

After visiting the site, the panel unanimously agreed with the protesters.

The turnout for the hearing was unusual, underscoring the nature of the controversy.

Breaking the legal occupancy limit of 100 people, Sun Valley City Hall was packed with people in seats, lined up along the walls, and sitting in the aisles and up on the floor of the dais. Still, there were people in the hallway and standing outside the side exit in the sun.

The target of the protest is property located on the inside curve of Horseshoe Road in Elkhorn, is owned by Johns-Manville Co., but Sagecreek has a contract to buy if the rezone is approved, according to Sun Valley planning and zoning administrator Jack Cloud.

Sagecreek was applying for a rezone from outdoor recreational (OR-1) to residential (RS-2). The developer’s intention is to build 12 townhouses.

The property’s designation under the city’s comprehensive plan had been changed, at Johns-Manville’s request, from open space to residential in 1994. That opened the door for the company’s rezone application.

Even though the commission never heard Sagecreek’s application, the rezone was all but denied after the commission agreed with Elkhorn property owners that the parcel was never intended for anything but open space.

At one point, the people opposed to Sagecreek’s rezone plan were asked to stand. Everyone but representatives of Sagecreek and Johns-Manville stood.

Fritz Haemmerle, representing Elkhorn homeowners Gary and Darcy Hollie, told the commission that "the record shows that 30 years ago Johns-Manville held this property as open space and that property owners bought their land with this understanding."

Edmund W. Dumke, one of the original Sun Valley Planning and Zoning commissioners, told the commission that when he bought the Upper Bluff Parcel from Johns-Manville in 1988, he was told the north of Bluff parcel was going to be given as open space to the Sun Valley Elkhorn Association.

Dumke also wrote a letter to the commission, dated Aug. 14, 2000, which said that "with regard to this parcel, there can be no doubt that Elkhorn never intended that this parcel be developed based on the original maps and plans."

To conclude his letter, he wrote, "It is inconceivable that this parcel can be developed for any type of residential use."

Glenn Janss, who owns a home on Horseshoe Road, told the commission that "the value we have in Sun Valley is open space."

She also wrote the commission a letter, dated July 18, 2000, that she will "heartily oppose all attempts to rezone the ridge under consideration."

"Residents, the Sun Valley City Council and Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission have always been totally opposed to any building on ridges or hillsides. Johns-Manville was very aware of this original, very strong policy in order to protect the rolling hills that are so much a part of our landscape."

Attorney John Hohnhorst, representing Johns-Manville, told the commission that if the commission decided against his client’s rezone application, then "Johns-Manville has a piece of valueless land which is equivalent to a public taking of land."

Dumke, speaking for a second time asserted, "Hohnhorst said this would be a taking of land from Johns-Manville. I’d say there’s already been a taking of land."

After a recess for a site visit, the commission returned and made its decision.

Commissioner Nils Ribi moved to recommend to the city council to change the designation of the property from residential to agricultural/recreational in the city’s comprehensive plan and confirmed that the parcel should remain open space.

The motion was passed unanimously except for P&Z member Charlie Holt who had to leave the meeting before its end.

The rezone application was tabled pending a decision on the comp plan change recommended to the city council.


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