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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 20 - 26, 2003


Sun Valley OKs
ordinance to
protect hillsides

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley City Council members Thursday, Aug. 14 voted unanimously to adopt a new ordinance designed to restrict development on hillsides and ridges throughout the city.

Adoption of the so-called "Hillside Ordinance" was a momentous occasion for the council. Despite an overall lack of fanfare during the vote, the move could serve to protect Sun Valley’s rural atmosphere from the unchecked development that has scarred the landscapes of many Rocky Mountain villages.

Provisions in the new ordinance, however, will not be incorporated into the city zoning code until after a second and third public reading of the legislation is conducted by the council. The readings will occur during future meetings of the council.

Len Harlig, former Blaine County commissioner, praised the council for enacting legislation to protect the natural landscape of Sun Valley. "I’m very grateful you have taken this step," he said.

As approved, the new ordinance will amend Sun Valley’s existing zoning regulations to effectively restrict the development of—and creation of—steeply sloped parcels.

The approved proposal comprises a single ordinance that would add new language to two distinct sections of the zoning code.

Generally, the ordinance will restrict the height and design of buildings planned for hillside parcels, as well as offer incentives to developers to lessen the impacts of projects in sloped areas.

In one key modification made Thursday, the council ordered city staff to install in the document new language that will altogether ban construction of buildings on hillsides with a slope of 25 percent or greater. The blanket ban on building on the steepest of slopes closely mirrors one that has been enacted by Blaine County.

However, Mayor David Wilson noted that the ban would not apply to most residentially zoned land. Land parcels in the city with more than a 25 percent slope are almost exclusively included in the city’s Outdoor-Recreation zoning district, he said.

Other key provisions of the ordinance include:

·  A ban on the creation of new parcels, through subdivision, that would have building envelopes with a slope greater than 25 percent—except as part of an approved planned-unit development. Generally, new lots would be allowed a maximum of one-half of the building envelope to be on a slope between 15 percent and 25 percent.

·  Language mandating the use of stepped building forms, natural colors and materials, sloped roofs and landscaping for development of most building sites with slopes greater than 15 percent. The percentage was set at 20 percent for the city’s Rural Estate and Ranch zoning district.

·  Language mandating that buildings shall "skyline"—a term to used to describe the effect of structures being outlined against the horizon.

·  A 35-foot height limit for structures in the city’s Rural Estate and Ranch zoning district, plus a provision that no more than one third of any building’s roof area can exceed 30 feet above record grade.

·  New design-review criteria and language in the city’s subdivision code to minimize the effects on the landscape of grading, cuts and fills.

Councilman Latham Williams said he would like a final set of text changes to the ordinance to explicitly state that the city discourages applications for subdivisions of steep hillside parcels. "We want to make it clear to developers that they don’t have the right to come in and build on hillsides," he said.

Adoption of the ordinance could prove to be a bright feather in the cap of council members who choose to seek reelection in November. Many residents for years have urged the city to pass legislation limiting hillside development.



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