Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Bellevue P&Z endorses 227-acre annexation

Development would bring 91 acres of Business zoning to city


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer


A requested annexation of 227 acres that lie between Hailey and Bellevue, shown here with proposed zoning, was approved by the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday. The city will work with the developer on an annexation agreement before bringing the annexation request to the City Council for final approval.
Courtesy graphic

    The Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission voted Monday to recommend to the City Council approval of a proposed annexation that would bring 227 acres of property into the city, saying the plan would have no negative impacts on city services and would conform to the city’s comprehensive plan.
    The annexation was requested on April 4 by the Eccles family, associated with Utah billionaire Spencer Eccles, with Flying Hat Ranch LLC managing member C. Hope Eccles signing the paperwork. The family requested annexation from the city of Hailey 15 years ago, and undertook months of deliberations with Hailey, Bellevue and Blaine County officials before dropping the request.
    Members of the public packed Bellevue City Hall on Monday to express both opposition to and support for the proposed annexation, which would extend Bellevue about to the north on the east side of state Highway 75 to the border of Hailey.
    P&Z Commissioner Chase Gouley cast the lone dissenting vote, saying the proposed zoning was not in keeping with the city’s comprehensive plan because it looked like “urban sprawl” and did not include open space “visual corridors” to separate the two cities. He also alleged that 91 acres of proposed Business zoning could sap commercial activity from downtown.
    “This is a shot-across-the-bow approach,” Gouley said. “We need to pause. I don’t think everyone is ready for this.”
    The city has full discretion to accept or reject the request, but Eccles’ attorney, Evan Robertson, said that if his client is rejected, the family will instead work toward annexation into Hailey.    
    “It’s going to be annexed into one city or another,” Robertson said. “It’s nice to see cows out there, but it’s not going to stay that way.”
    Robertson said the Eccles’ ranch operation has persisted since it was purchased in 1969, but that surrounding developments had encroached, making ranching untenable due to the difficulty of operating large equipment.
    “It no longer makes economic sense to my client,” he said.
    Robertson said Spencer Eccles, the patriarch of the family, turns 80 this year, an event that also contributed to the family’s desire to develop the property.
    P&Z Commissioner Laira Thomas expressed a desire to see “what it would look like” to work with the city of Hailey while reviewing the annexation request, but city staff and the commission took that issue no further.    
    Several members of the commission and some Bellevue residents expressed a desire to annex the property in some form or another, before Hailey officials had a chance to entertain the request. They expressed distrust of Hailey’s intentions, should the city have a chance at annexing the property first.
    “If you don’t work with the developer, it will be out of our control,” Commissioner Levi Sali said. “The last thing we want is for that green dome to come further south.”
    Sali was referring to a fiberglass dome that was built 32 years ago at the Hailey wastewater treatment plant in Woodside and is now slated for demolition.
     Bellevue contract engineer Mike Choate said the Eccles annexation would come with 13 cubic feet per second of water rights, enough to provide “excess water” for the proposed developments. The city’s fire and police departments stated that the proposed development would not impact city services.
The proposed annexation would include 43 acres of Residential zoning, both at the southern edge of Bellevue and away from the highway to the east on the hillside.
 Thirty-two acres of mixed-use zoning would buffer neighborhoods from the commercial areas.
The northern end of the proposed annexation would be composed of 28 acres of Light Industrial zoning, alongside existing LI zoning in Woodside at the southern end of Hailey, and 14 acres of Light Industrial-Mixed Business zoning at the entrance to the city.
    “The Eccles would like to throw out a welcome mat to Bellevue,” said Eccles family liaison Marc Reinemann at the Monday meeting.
    He said the Eccles would prefer to see companies like Power Engineers or Rocky Mountain Hardware inhabit the proposed Business zone, but Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson said the large parcels proposed for the site “call out for big box stores.” He said the proposed development would increase the city limits by 23 percent and double the amount of commercial property.
    “This could leave your downtown stores vacant and empty,” he said.
    Several Bellevue residents, and two former mayors, cautioned the council about moving forward without demanding more detail from the developer.
    “We spent four years vetting a developer,” said former City Councilman Jon Wilkes. “If you move quickly, you will create a lot of anguish with this.”
     An equal number of people spoke in favor of moving forward, saying the new commercial property could provide a boon to the city.
    “This valley is not going to survive unless we get good growth,” said Bellevue resident and businessman Brad Baker.
    He joined others in saying the annexation would provide jobs and opportunities for young people wanting to stay in Bellevue.
    “My kids won’t come back here [if more economic opportunities aren’t created in the area],” said Melissa Fry. “They will go to college and leave.”
    Aaron Dechevrieux, who grew up in Bellevue, said the Eccles should consider making a “tax swap” for the land, keeping it undeveloped.
    Land Use Planner Doug Clemens did not offer to create a visual corridor of open space between the two cities, but said tree plantings along the northern end of the proposed development near Hailey would be planted to create a “soft entry” to Bellevue.
    Clemens has been enlisted by other developers to plan several other high-profile developments in the Wood River Valley, including Lane Ranch, Elkhorn and Big Wood.
    Bellevue Planning Director Craig Eckles said “endless public meetings” would ensue to add detail and ensure control over the development in years to come, using the large-block plat, planned-unit development and subdivision processes.
    “Where else is Bellevue going to grow?” Eckles asked.
    City staff will proceed with initiating studies with the developer, and write a draft annexation agreement, said City Attorney Rick Allington.
    Allington said that due to recent litigation between the city of Hailey and Old Cutters LLC, which successfully challenged the city’s assessment of annexation fees, the annexation agreement for the Eccles property would likely be kept strictly equal to the amount of impact on city services.
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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