Bellevue Mayor Ned Burns used emergency powers to extend the city’s ban on nonessential construction in the face of the COVID-19 threat for another week on Monday.

Yet, the mayor allowed road surveying work to proceed on phase one of the Strahorn subdivision in Slaughterhouse Canyon in violation of the ban.

City Councilman Chris Johnson brought the issue up at a council meeting Monday, saying he had concerns about how the city was implementing the construction ban. Johnson proposed including new language in the ban that would restrict any work not undertaken by the city. The council voted unanimously to include the new language.

Burns said Tuesday that he allowed a surveyor to perform what he deemed infrastructure work after the restrictions were in place.

“I based that decision on the fact that we needed that survey data to have accurate drainage maps for this project and to allow for the maps to be reviewed by staff,” Burns said. “I probably should have just held off on it, in hindsight.”

The city’s emergency orders build upon statewide rules, including travel restrictions to and from Blaine County and prohibitions on public gatherings of any size and gatherings of unrelated people inside homes. They also ordered all nonessential businesses to temporarily close. The Bellevue order states that “commercial and residential construction is not considered essential infrastructure.”

Burns, a real estate broker, said he has no professional involvement with the Strahorn project. Strahorn developer Jeff Pfaeffle confirmed that Burns is not attached to the project. Pfaeffle stated that the selection of a listing agent for sales of lots in the development has not yet occurred.

Sean Flynn, president of Galena Engineering, the company that completed the survey work, said he reached out to the city and was given permission to proceed.

Flynn said the surveying work consisted of “one guy out there walking around pounding in stakes,” and that in his opinion did not fall under the ban’s wording of “construction.” He said the surveying took three days to complete and resulted in the submittal of a road grading plan to the city for review. He said the next phase of development would consist of cutting roads.

The first of five phases at Strahorn consists of 46 lots on 18.5 acres at the mouth of Slaughterhouse Canyon. At full buildout, the development will consist of 205 lots.

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