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For the week of July 23 - 29, 2003


Sun Valley OKs village zoning proposal

Affordable housing, commercial
space to be required

"We need a place for a kid to get an ice cream cone. We need a place to go get a burger and a beer. We need a place to go get groceries."

— DARRELL SCOTT, Elkhorn resident

Express Staff Writer

In a bold move, Sun Valley City Council members last week endorsed a draft plan to require that affordable housing and commercial space be developed as part of new projects in the city’s commercial-zoned village centers.

The tentative decision came Thursday, July 17, during a special meeting to consider a proposal to amend regulations governing the city’s Commercial Center zoning district. The district comprises approximately 85 acres of land in Sun Valley Village and central Elkhorn Village.

Council members at the meeting endorsed a plan requiring that a minimum of 5 percent of the gross floor area of new building projects in the district be developed as so-called community housing—affordable housing units that would have to be approved by the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

The panel also determined that developments in the district must dedicate 3 percent of the gross floor area of each project—except for parking structures—to commercial space for permitted business.

In addition, council members determined that new developments in the CC district should not be required to seek special provisions to attain a height of 64 feet, the existing height maximum.

The amendments agreed upon by council members last week will be considered for final adoption at a public hearing scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 14, at Sun Valley City Hall.

Mayor David Wilson said the city at a later date will draft an ordinance to govern a new community-housing program.

After the meeting, Councilman Lud Renick said he believes the decision to require that affordable housing be built as part of specific new projects was an "important" move by the council.

However, during the meeting, Councilwoman Ann Agnew expressed concern that the city would encourage large buildings by leaving the height limit in the two villages at 64 feet. "I’m concerned that we’re going to get all buildings at 64 feet," she said.

Elkhorn resident Darrell Scott said the commercial development requirement might be insufficient. "We need a place for a kid to get an ice cream cone. We need a place to go get a burger and a beer. We need a place to go get groceries."

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Nils Ribi—who helped draft an initial proposal that sought to set a general height limit of 44 feet, with some exceptions—said he believes a 64-foot height limit "could be reasonable." He added that he thinks the council’s proposed community-housing requirement is "a little light."

The city’s review of the CC zoning district was initiated last year. Council members on Dec. 19 approved a 120-day moratorium on new applications for development projects in Elkhorn Village and Sun Valley Village.

The moratorium proposal was put forth by city staff in response to a potential surge in development applications for CC-zoned lands that propose only residential uses—rather than the intended mix of residential and commercial uses.

A second 120-day moratorium was passed in April and will expire in late August.

The proceedings to develop the proposed amendments have been conducted with an abundance of comments from representatives of development partnership CG-Elkhorn, which is preparing a plan to redevelop 11 acres of land that once included Elkhorn Resort. Sun Valley Co., which owns the majority of the land in the CC zoning district, has declined to publicly comment on the plans.

Council President Latham Williams at the July 17 meeting cautioned the city against tailoring the process to meet CG-Elkhorn’s plans. "We have to be careful we’re not just spot zoning here," he said.



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