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For the week of Jan 29 - Feb 4, 2003

News

Elkhorn demolition appeal fails

Appellant seeks court-issued injunction


By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer

An eleventh-hour effort to halt the demolition of the Elkhorn Hotel received a major setback Monday, but it appears the battle over the fate of the property will now be resolved in a district court.

Sun Valley City Council members Monday unanimously denied an appeal of the city’s decision to permit the demolition of the Elkhorn Hotel and several adjacent commercial structures.

In a 3-0 vote with Council President Latham Williams absent, the panel moved swiftly to deny an appeal by Elkhorn property owner Michael Simmonds seeking reconsideration of a Jan. 7 decision by the city Planning and Zoning Commission to allow a phased demolition at the site that’s scheduled to begin Feb. 6.

"In my opinion, a vacated building is a hazard," Councilwoman Ann Agnew said.

Developer CG-Elkhorn ceased all operations at the hotel last September, and representatives have said the company plans to redevelop the site with a mix of commercial and residential developments.

Simmonds—a Boise resident who owns property in the Elkhorn Village Condominiums—filed the appeal on Jan. 15.

Simmonds contended that a plan to reconstruct the Elkhorn Hotel site should be approved before any part of Elkhorn Village is destroyed. "My concern is that there has never been a demolition of this scale in Sun Valley before," he said.

In the appeal, Simmonds claimed that the decision was beyond the authority of the P&Z, and asked council members to consider the potentially broad impact the demolition project could have on local property owners.

City Attorney Rand Peebles told council members Monday that the P&Z did not act outside of its scope. "P&Z did its job, and there has been some question if P&Z was beyond its authority. Clearly not," he said.

Ned Williamson, attorney for CG-Elkhorn, said the permit approved by the P&Z will be governed by 100 separate conditions that will keep the project "tightly controlled."

However, Williamson noted that Simmonds and two other Elkhorn property owners had recently filed suit in Fifth District Court in Hailey seeking an injunction to stop the project.

He said the suit will likely be considered by the court on Feb. 4, two days before the demolition project is slated to begin.

Indeed, Simmonds and property owners Dana Kehr and Marty Huebner on Jan. 23 filed a complaint seeking an injunction to halt the demolition because the project would violate Elkhorn’s "Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions."

Williamson said Monday that CG-Elkhorn is planning to hold several "open sessions" with local residents and members of the Sun Valley Elkhorn Association homeowners group to discuss proposals before submitting redevelopment plans to the city.

"We do want a mixed use in that area," he said.

Because the city in December imposed a 120-day moratorium on new projects in Elkhorn Village and Sun Valley Village, CG-Elkhorn cannot submit any formal building plans to the city until April 20.

Before making a motion to deny the appeal, Councilman Lud Renick said he would like any new plans to redevelop the site to include provisions for commercial activity. "I do hope we have a viable commercial core in the new community," he said.

The Jan. 7 decision by the P&Z approved a two-phase plan for CG-Elkhorn contractors to demolish the Elkhorn Hotel, River Rock Steak House building and Treat Haus building this winter, and to raze the Sun Valley Elkhorn Resort Realtors building and the resort’s former golf pro shop in early 2005.

Most of the demolition operations for the first phase are scheduled to occur from Feb. 6 through March 5.

David Hennessy, CG-Elkhorn’s local project planner, said last week that contractors have started removing furniture from the 132-unit hotel and doing other preparations for the demolition project.

He said the buildings will be destroyed with a large backhoe, a process that will likely take approximately three weeks.

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