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Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Crown Ranch is back on the table

City Council directs P&Z to review revised plan

Express Staff Writer

A long-contested debate over plans to develop the final phase of Crown Ranch subdivision in Elkhorn is one step closer to being resolved.

Sun Valley City Council members Thursday, June 17, voted unanimously to set aside proceedings in a lawsuit over the development and directed the Planning and Zoning Commission to review a scaled-down plan that calls for 11 new townhouses at the site.

The city decision to essentially table the standing lawsuit over the proposed Crown Ranch project was made with the consent of the developer, Lane Monroe, of Crown Point Development. Monroe and his attorney, Evan Robertson, implied they would drop their lawsuit against the city if they can ultimately gain approval for the revised, 11-unit plan.

Rand Peebles, Sun Valley city attorney, said the decision by the city to reconsider approval of an 11-unit development at Crown Ranch could help both parties avert a long battle in court.

"Itís a final opportunity for the city, and the developer, to take control of their own destiny," Peebles said.

At issue Thursday was a lawsuit over an April 2003 application by Crown Point Development to subdivide a 3.3-acre parcel at Crown Ranch into 13 lots. As part of the plan, 13 townhouses were proposed to be built along 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&Zís 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.

In September 2003, attorneys for Crown Point filed a lawsuit that sought to have the 5th District Court in Hailey review the City Councilís decision to deny the original plan.

The complaint called the cityís decision "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion."

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, the P&Z voted to decline to process the second Crown Ranch application for 11 units, noting that they did not want to do so while the lawsuit was pending.

In considering the lawsuit, acting 5th District Court Judge Barry Wood on May 17 asked the city to more clearly define its reasons for denying the original application.

Instead of directing the council to simply follow the judgeís orders, Peebles advised the panel to allow the P&Z to process the 11-lot application.

Robertson and Monroe agreed to the plan.

"I think everybody would be better off looking at the 11-lot subdivision," Robertson said.

Council members determined that the P&Z could fairly evaluate the 11-unit application while the lawsuit was put on hold. However, the council decision Thursday does not eradicate the suit, which will likely be held open through the P&Zís review of the revised application.

Monroe said he would like to start construction on the project before the end of the summer.

"Unfortunately, itís been a long process," he said to the council.

The P&Z will likely review the 11-lot plan in the next month.


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