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Fox Creek Development Rezone, New Developments, PUD Ordinance discussion

Planning and Zoning Meeting June 12, 2007

Fox Creek Development Rezone
Fox Creek Development, represented by Tom Hunter, requested a zone change from manufacturing (M) to commercial (C2). The property is located on east side of Scenic Hwy. 33 and 500 South. It contains 3 lots, totaling approximately 19 acres. The P&Z voted 4-3 to continue the application because the applicant had not provided the specific uses that were being requested and had not provided a site plan locating the proposed uses.

The original manufacturing zone was granted around 1994-1995 and was permitted to include storage units and one 40,000 sq. ft. warehouse. The applicant requested a rezone to commercial that would allow a variety of retail uses.

VARD opposed the request for stwo reasons: 1) Teton County does not currently have a future of preferred land use map (PLUM), as required by state statute which helps guide zoning decisions. The Idaho Supreme Court ruled in Sprenger Grubb vs. the City of Hailey that the components of a comprehensive plan need to be in place, including a land use map, or decisions are vulnerable to being overturned. This land use map is not considered an existing zoning map, but is a map that identifies areas in the County that would be the preferred locations for certain uses. VARD has consistently held the position that the county should not allow any zone changes without having a PLUM in place so as to avoid capricious zoning decisions and protect the applicant from a zoning decision from being overturned. 2) Additional commercial zoning along Scenic Hwy 33, without an evaluation of cost of services and corroboration with the cities goals and objectives, is both costly to tax payers and undermines community character.

In summary:

New Developments
The P&Z passed 6 new residential developments in the County totaling 245 new lots on a total of 865 acres.
The numbers on new lots:
– Population increase: 710 new residents
– Wastewater:  71,050 gallons/day
– Vehicle trips:  2,327/day
– Dogs and Cats population: 735
– School Children: 120
– Solid waste: 3,197lbs./day
– Water consumption: 127,179 gallons/day

Driggs Centre Industrial and Professional Park Preliminary Plat
Driggs Centre, located far from the center of Driggs and in the county across from the county landfill requested 55 light manufacturing lots on 60 acres. The P&Z voted unanimously to recommend approval of the preliminary plat.

VARD’s main concern with this application is the amount of traffic that this development will generate at Cottonwood Corner, State Line Road, Ski Hill Road and 200 E. as well as the effects it will have on the vitality of downtown Driggs.  The applicant conducted a traffic study but it fell short of evaluating traffic impacts comprehensively. The study focused on the area south of the development and did not look on the impact of the development east on Stateline Road, north at Ski Hill Road and at Cottonwood Corner to the west. Considering the amount of development in the area with a conference center planned at Teton Creek Resort, Targhee Hills Estates with over 300 units and Driggs Centre the traffic impacts to the area will be dramatic.  VARD predicts we will see a traffic light at Ski Hill and Stateline and at Cottonwood Corner in the near future.

Amendments to Title 9: County Subdivision Ordinance
Repeal of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) Ordinance
Removal of Density Definitions from the Comprehensive Plan

The final business of the evening pertained to three public hearings on county planning and zoning issues. In sum, the hearings quickly turned away from organized public discourse and more toward a circus that ended in no decision from the P&Z, having continued the hearings to July 31st. Most agree that we need a better plan to manage growth (see Kathy Rinaldi’s Op ED in 6/21/07 TVN) and in order get a better plan we need to amend what is currently in place.

Most of the amendments to Title 9: Subdivision Ordinance were minor dealing with administrative confusion in the language of the ordinance. However, two amendments were more controversial and pertained to the public hearing process. Currently, the opportunity for the public to comment on a development is at the concept level, which can and has been very vague as far as information pertaining to particular plats is available to the public for review. There have been a number of applications where the plats have changed before the public hearing leaving the public at a severe disadvantage to provide meaningful comment. The amendments proposed would have moved the concept stage from a public hearing to an administrative review by the P&Z staff. The applicant would also have the option to present a concept to the P&Z for feedback. The public hearing would then move to the Preliminary stage where the application would be more complete. VARD has consistently maintained that the current public hearing process left the public at a major disadvantage for comment since all information to make meaningful comments was not required to be filed at the concept stage. The advantage of this amendment to the public process is that the public will have more detailed and comprehensive information to provide meaningful comment. It would also create a more efficient and fair process for the P&Z, both staff and commission, as well as the developer.

The second major amendment to Title 9 concerned one-time-only land splits. The proposed amendment would require a parcel of land to be a minimum of 20 acres in order to qualify for a land split.

Questions arose immediately from some members of the public that the amendments to Title 9 were not available for public review. The Planning and Zoning office responded that that was not the case, that the documents were available but not to the time specifications of the requester. At this point the meeting spiraled out of control. After two hours of emotional discussion, the P&Z decided to table all three public hearings stating there was confusion on the public’s part as to what was being heard and what information was available from the P&Z office. The commission chose to err on the side of caution and rescheduled the hearings for July 31st.

However, during the diatribe between the commission and the public the county’s legal counsel, Bart Birch and Paul Fitzer of Moore, Smith Buxton and Turcke, advised that although there may have been some question on the notification process for the Title 9 amendments, there was no question that the hearings for repealing the current Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance and the proposal to remove density language from the Comprehensive Plan were both noticed properly and could proceed to a hearing. The commission did not follow legal counsel’s advice and tabled all three items.

VARD is very concerned on both the discourse and process of this meeting. The ability of a public meeting to slip into a chaotic enough situation where the public is making personal attacks on commissioners is unacceptable. There is no question our community is facing real growth issues and it is important we are able to find a better plan to manage growth.

VARD is hopeful that the P&Z will understand the importance of recommending changes to our current planning policies and codes to enable us to get a better growth management plan and schedule a special meeting to hear these three amendments soon as possible. Waiting until July 31st is too long.

Upcoming meetings and changes:
June 26th 6pm P&Z work meeting
July 10th meeting starts at 3:30 pm
July 31st 5pm public hearing on Rescinding the PUD
                                                    Amendments to Title 9
                                                    Removal of density language


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