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Rezoning the Prospector Hill area of Sun Valley was envisioned by city leaders in a 2015 update of the Sun Valley Comprehensive Plan. A final decision on the plan now rests with the sitting City Council.

Sun Valley City Council members gave initial consent Thursday to a proposed rezone of approximately 75 acres of open land immediately east of the Dollar Mountain ski area and a smaller site at the base of the mountain, while adding a condition that limits future development.

With Councilman Brad DuFur recusing himself from the proceedings, the council voted 3-0 to approve the first reading of a draft ordinance to rezone about 70 acres of an area called Prospector Hill and an approximately five-acre area at the southwest corner of the Elkhorn Road-Dollar Road intersection, including the Dollar Mountain parking lot. Prospector Hill ranges south and east from Sun Valley City Hall across a slope that climbs along Elkhorn Road toward the Skyline Drive neighborhood.

The City Council will consider approving a second reading of the ordinance at its meeting Thursday, Feb. 4. If council members agree to approve a second reading, they could opt to waive a third reading, or choose to consider a third and final reading on a future date. The draft ordinance would become a city law after three public readings—two of which can be waived—and receiving the signature of Mayor Peter Hendricks.

The proposal by applicant Sun Valley Co. calls for changing the existing Open Recreation zoning of the land to a variety of zoning designations that could allow for a mix of multi-family residential, single-family residential and some service-oriented development. The proposal was made last fall as the final step in a long series of public discussions and actions related to Sun Valley Co.’s long-term plans for a vast area of lands it owns in the city.

Tim Silva, Sun Valley Co. president and general manager, as well Hendricks, said the rezone is linked to an agreement between the city and the company to shift development density from the “Gateway” area of the city along Sun Valley Road—which includes the resort’s Horseman’s Center and Penny Hill—to Prospector Hill. In the deal, Sun Valley Co. agreed to trade previously allowed development rights in the Gateway to Prospector to protect the Gateway area with an Open Space zoning designation. The agreement was the result of years of discussions—including public committee meetings, workshops, surveys, and meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council—that culminated in a 2015 update of the Sun Valley Comprehensive Plan, Silva noted.

“Ultimately, a deal is a deal,” Silva said.

The rezone would bring the Prospector lands into compliance with a city land-use map and vision adopted as part of the 2015 update of the comprehensive plan, the guiding land-use document for the city. The Open Recreation zoning district is being phased out by the city, which is gradually trying to change the designation of all land in that zone, city officials have said. The rezone out of the Open Recreation district—which limits development but allows recreational uses—is mandated by city code, the city has stated.

The 2015 update of the comprehensive plan outlines a potential maximum of 112 units for the Prospector site, including 32 single-family and 60 multi-family units on the east side of Elkhorn Road and 20 multi-family units on the parcel at the base of Dollar Mountain. Silva said Sun Valley Co. is committed to observing the outlined maximum densities but does not now have a specific development plan.

The proposed ordinance calls for changing about 40 acres from Open Recreation to Single-Family Residential, which allows two housing units per acre. Approximately 17 acres would be rezoned to Multiple-Family Residential—permitting up to 14 units per acre—and about 14 acres would be zoned in the Open Space designation, which primarily allows trails, equestrian uses and agriculture. In addition, approximately two acres would be rezoned to Service Commercial—intended to allow “low-intensity commercial activity,” a city staff report states—and approximately 2.5 acres would be rezoned to Public/Institutional, intended for public services or gatherings.

Development plans for the Prospector area—and the specifics therein—would go through the city’s established approval processes.

Numerous citizens submitted written comments and made public comments Thursday opposing the rezone, with many stating they want to see the private lands remain open.

However, Hendricks called approval of the rezone ordinance “a matter of integrity,” and council members agreed to move it forward.

“They have rights as private landowners,” Councilwoman Michelle Griffith said.

In approving the first reading of the ordinance, council members stipulated that the rezone specifically match the 2015 update of the comprehensive plan and correspond to the suggested maximum density of 112 housing units on the entirety of the area.

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