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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 21 - 27, 2001


Triumph Springs 
fails to triumph

Sun Valley City Council 
decides against development

"I (would) view this as a permanent loss of an environmental and community asset."

Lud Renick, Sun Valley councilman

Express Staff Writer

Lane Ranch Partnershipís dream of building a seven-home development called Triumph Springs ended Thursday at the Sun Valley City Council meeting.

The three applications the partnership brought to the council all failed to win the councilís approval after the three-hour meeting.

The first application was for a comprehensive plan amendment to change the land use map from agricultural/recreational to residential.

The second was for a zone boundary amendment to change the propertyís zoning from outdoor recreational to rural and ranch estate, a residential designation.

The third was for a preliminary plat to create seven single family lots.

All three of the applications were heard by the Sun Valley planning and zoning commission, which recommended to the council that they be denied.

The P&Z heard the applications in three meetings during July and August.

The Lane Ranch Partnership, which is a partnership of OíNeill Enterprises Inc. and Cascea Associates Inc., was represented by Peter OíNeill.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, he presented the Triumph Springs project to the council for the first time, along with his development team that included attorney Evan Robertson, designer Doug Clemens, architect Jim Ruscitto and engineer Barry Sample.

At that three-hour council meeting, public comment was not allowed by Mayor Dave Wilson so that the council could do a site visit and hear most of the partnershipís plans.

Wilson and the council heard public comment at its latest meeting and rebuttals by OíNeill, but OíNeill could not persuade the council to overturn the P&Zís recommendations for denial.

While public comment was impassioned, the councilís unanimous support of its P&Z grew out of its interpretation of two vague texts.

One of those texts was its annexation agreement in 1986 with Cascea Associates and Edward R. Downe Jr., the partnership that preceded the current partnership and brought the Lane Ranch subdivision into the city.

The annexation also brought into the city the 166 acres north of the Lane Ranch and west of Weyyakin, 67 acres of which was to be Triumph Springs.

The second vague text was the definition of a "special site" in the cityís comprehensive plan. The Triumph Springs property was designated a special site in 1994.

Opponents to Triumph Springs interpreted the annexation agreement to say that the 166 acres would remain agricultural/recreational.

The developers disagreed.

OíNeill told the council and the developmentís opponents that he and his partners never "gave up development rights" to the property in the annexation agreement.

Opponents to the development interpreted special site as a mandate, as attorney Doug Werth put it, requiring "a heightened review of the pending applications. It does not entitle Triumph Springs to a change from agricultural/residential to a residential zoning district classification."

Attorney Robertson saw the designation differently.

In an Aug. 8 letter to the P&Z, he wrote the property, as a special site, "was suitable for rezone and development, albeit a sensitive one," if "an acceptable site-specific plan" could be shown.

Councilman Latham Williams asked city attorney Rand Peebles for clear legal interpretations of the annexation agreement and special site.

Peebles told the council that the two things were unclear, "no doubt about it. Itís your job to add clarity."

"You are going to have to interpret the comprehensive plan. Thatís your job, and itís a hard one," he said.

And interpret they did.

Councilwoman Linda OíShea said that special site meant that the site was even more restrictive than other sites.

"I am of the mind it is not appropriate to amend the comprehensive plan for this development," she said.

Councilman Kevin Laird said he remembered when the Lane Ranch was annexed into the city and that the Triumph Springs property was part of a larger parcel intended to remain zoned outdoor recreational.

Councilman Lud Renick said, "I (would) view this as a permanent loss of an environmental and community asset."

Williams said he had to be guided by the 1994 comprehensive plan.

"It doesnít say we have to approve this project. It doesnít say we have to rezone it as residential.

"The burden is on the developer to show why we should allow this project.

"I see no reason why we should overturn the P&Zís recommendations.

"I think we understand the project very clearly, and we reject it."

The council vote to uphold the P&Zís recommendation to deny approval was unanimous for each of the three applications.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.