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Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Crown Ranch plan comes full circle

5th District Court sends case back to Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Pursuant to a ruling by the 5th District Court in Hailey, Sun Valley City Council members Thursday, June 17, will reconsider a controversial application to develop the final phase of Crown Ranch subdivision in Elkhorn.

The court decision, issued May 17 by acting 5th District Judge Barry Wood, could give the city of Sun Valley an opportunity to resolve a complex lawsuit that has been lingering since last fall.

At issue is an April 2003 application by Sun Valley-based Crown Point Development to subdivide a 3.3-acre parcel at Crown Ranch into 13 lots that would each be the site of a multiple-level townhouse. The townhouses were proposed to be located between a bend in Crown Ranch Road, which branches off the southern section of Morningstar Road.

The project was submitted as Phase 5 of Crown Ranch.

The Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission in May 2003 narrowly approved the application.

However, the city council in July 2003 unanimously upheld two separate appeals opposing the P&Z’s approval of the design of the project. At the same time, council members voted unanimously to deny a related subdivision application to establish 13 lots on the parcel.

Pursuant to that decision, representatives for Crown Point in August 2003 submitted a new application to the city seeking approval for the creation of only 11 lots and the construction of 11 townhouses.

Then, further complicating the matter, legal representatives for Crown Point in September 2003 filed a "petition for judicial review" that sought to have the 5th District Court review the City Council’s decision to deny the original plan.

The petition to the court requested that the city’s denial of the original application "be reversed because it was not supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole and was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion."

The petition specifically asked the court to overturn the city’s decision or "remand the matter, if necessary, for further proceedings."

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the P&Z declined to process the second Crown Ranch application for 11 units.

Rand Peebles, Sun Valley city attorney, said Tuesday that Judge Wood’s decision on May 17 essentially asks the city to "expand" the legal "findings of fact" issued in rejecting the original application.

"The court did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit," Peebles said.

Peebles said city council members will be asked Thursday to follow the judge’s orders.

In addition, Peebles said, council members will be asked to consider whether they want to order the P&Z to review the 11-unit application it previously denied to process. If the city pursued that approach, he noted, the lawsuit could ultimately be rendered inconsequential.

If the council simply follows the court orders to clarify its reasons for denying the original plan, the lawsuit will return to 5th District Court for final processing, Peebles said.


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