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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — April 16, 2004


Consultants to city: Don’t get greedy

Planners say Sun Valley
should eye ‘sustainability’

Express Staff Writer

A team of consultants advising the city of Sun Valley on how to plan for its future issued some meaningful advice Wednesday, warning that the city must find a balance between too much and too little development.

In a special meeting at the Sun Valley Inn April 14, planning consultant Brent Harley and a team of assistants explained why they believe it would be advantageous to carefully update the Sun Valley Comprehensive Plan, the city’s guiding document for land-use decisions.

Harley, the head of Brent Harley & Associates, of Whistler, B. C., emphasized that he believes Sun Valley needs a comprehensive plan that provides for enough growth to keep the community vigorous but limits over-development of its vast open spaces.

"I really, really emphasize that need for sustainability," he said.

Michel Beaudry, a Whistler-based communications consultant working with Harley, concurred. He noted that he has seen several prominent Rocky Mountain resorts stifle success by poorly managing development.

Beaudry said most visitors to mountain towns want to see a vibrant local community, not a cookie-cutter village composed primarily of absentee homeowners and commuting service workers.

"Mountain towns are not like Disneyland," he said. "Visitors want to see real residents."

Beaudry cautioned against allowing rampant development, saying resorts "should not kill the goose that laid the golden egg."

Harley and Beaudry are part of a five-member team of consultants the city has commissioned to help rewrite its comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 1994. The team also includes Ford Frick, a Denver-based planning consultant who specializes in guiding successful business development.

With Mayor Jon Thorson and a steering committee of city residents, the consultants are seeking comments from Sun Valley citizens on how they think the city should develop over the next 10 to 15 years.

"It has to be driven by civic input," Harley said.

Harley said Sun Valley is unique, in large part because it hasn’t seen any wide-scale development in the last 25 years. Still, Sun Valley must properly plan to manage future development and stay competitive with other Rocky Mountain resorts.

Harley said important trends the city should consider in updating its comprehensive plan include:

  • High levels of competition among Western mountain resorts.

  • Over-development in some resort areas, leading in some instances to a loss of recreational amenities.

  • Increases in environmentally friendly tourism practices.

The meeting Wednesday was the first in a series of gatherings planned in 2004 to involve the public in the development of a new comprehensive plan.

The public has been invited to submit comments to City Hall in the months to come.

The process will certainly be influenced significantly by Sun Valley Co.’s April 6 unveiling of a 50-year master plan to develop portions of 2,600 acres of land it owns in the city. The conceptual plan generally proposes development densities less than those the company could be allowed under existing zoning regulations.

Thorson has called for language in the comprehensive plan that seeks to incorporate the proposals of the Sun Valley Co. master plan, as well as a revision of certain zoning-related ordinances.

Beaudry said he believes the two plans can be "meshed" if the public so desires.

The city’s steering committee on Tuesday started the process of identifying issues to consider in future discussions about the update. The group’s list of issues included a lack of affordable housing, limited water supplies and increasing restrictions on access to public amenities.

The consultants will return to Sun Valley in June. They plan to complete a draft of the new comprehensive plan by September and to bring a final document to the Sun Valley City Council before the end of the year.


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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.