Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sun Valley sidelines city entrance regulations

City moves ahead with other land-use laws


By MEGAN THOMAS
Express Staff Writer

An ongoing discussion to change the land-use configuration for the city of Sun Valley's signature western entrance lands, known as the "gateway," was set aside last week.

During a vote Thursday, Oct. 19, to amend the city's comprehensive plan and the adjoining land-use maps, the City Council threw out a new scenario for future development along Sun Valley Road.

The land-use scenario under consideration shows less density for the lands along Sun Valley Road when compared to the existing comprehensive plan maps.

Councilmen Nils Ribi, Blair Boand and Lud Renick decided not to adopt a resolution that would amend the city's comprehensive plan and change the configuration of development of the city's gateway entrance lands and Sun Valley Horseman's Center.

"I hate to have something frozen in time, something less good than something we have before us today. The improvements are significant ... deficient as it is," Councilwoman Ann Agnew said. Agnew favored the proposed gateway plan and cast the only dissenting vote.

Opposing the proposal, Ribi emphasized that mapping oversights posed significant problems for the city. For example, under the new mapping, Sun Valley Co.'s only access to its foothill property on the west side of Sun Valley Road was through the city's five-acre public parcel, next to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. And he said the proposal did not reflect the input gathered during four public meetings in early August. That was followed by the city's town hall meeting in September.

The proposal under consideration last week allocated some development to the north end of Penny Hill, which is designated as open space under the current comprehensive plan. Also, the proposal lowered the density from a maximum of 125 to 100 units, removed the city's five-acre parcel from the maps and added the Horseman's Center lands to the planning area.

"For the time being, let's just put the Horseman's Center to bed and leave it as-is," said Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman, who indicated there were no immediate plans to develop that area. "I think it complicates things. We all come to a standstill."

He requested the removal of the Horseman's Center and asked the city to leave the parcel's designated land use as recreation rather than for public use.

Huffman also suggested returning the plans to the configuration in place under current zoning, which allocated all 112 residential development rights to Penny Hill.

"I proposed the development behind the trees (on the west side of Sun Valley Road), based on the assumption nobody would like development on the (Penny Hill) corner ... I think we may get that option down the road," Huffman said.

The proposed scenario also cut back the area for future residential development at the toe of the hill on the west side of Sun Valley Road. Other residential development, with workforce housing, was allocated to the two-acre meadow behind the red barn on Sun Valley Road.

"That (red) barn is used by everybody ... but that barn does not have any relevance without any land around it," Sun Valley resident Nancy Humphrey said. She suggested the city propose to trade part of the city's five-acre parcel for Sun Valley Co.'s red barn and then use the barn as museum and public park.

In the end, the council voted to maintain the status quo for the gateway by removing the proposed changes from the comprehensive plan amendment. The vote will move forward plans to amend the comprehensive plan at a later date by adding three updated natural resource maps and narrative background on designated special sites. Under Idaho Code, the removal of the gateway proposal constituted a material change that required the city to notice again its intentions to add maps and special site descriptions.

Following the comprehensive plan discussion, the City Council voted to adopt a unified development code, which organizes and clarifies existing ordinances and institutes larger policy changes. Wireless communication facility regulations, annexation policy procedures, and new riparian building setback regulations were approved within the development code.

Agnew cast the only dissenting vote against the unified code, opposing the riparian regulations that will require a 35-foot riparian setback and buffer area for some homeowners who voluntarily remove 75 percent or greater of an existing structure or build a new home.

The city's previous code allowed the Planning and Zoning Commission to establish riparian setbacks on a discretionary basis.

"We need to do something, even if it's small, for water quality in this valley," Ribi said.

The city's push to pass new land-use laws has come in part because of Proposition 2, a statewide ballot initiative that would limit cities' abilities to pass and enforce zoning and land-use regulations.




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