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Preliminary Plat for Jensen Corner in-fill proposal

Marshal McInnis proposed 8 lots, in the form of 4 duplexes, on three quarters of an acre located at 3rd Street and Ashley Avenue in Driggs.  Mr. McInnis explained that he was trying to keep the lots more affordable by proposing and selling them as city lots as opposed to forming a planned unit development with design criteria CCRs.  This approach did not provide any guarantees of what the future duplexes would look like, which was of concern to many neighbors who spoke to the application. There was some question of whether the P&Z should recommend approval with design conditions, which future owners would be required to comply with.  Most of the neighbors who spoke also said they thought the proposal was too dense.  In the face of the numerous negative comments by the neighbors and hesitation on the part of the P&Z, McInnis withdrew the application, thanking everyone for their comments and saying that this was his first attempt and that he didn’t intend to ram rod it through.

As one of the first in-fill proposals, this hearing raised some issues that will have to be addressed going forward for in-fill of the Driggs grid to be successful.  One is education around the choices facing the community when it comes to the location of density. VARD’s Kim Billimoria spoke in favor of the proposal noting that both the city of Driggs and Teton County comprehensive plans call for housing density to be concentrated in the city and that in-fill development on empty city blocks is needed.  With the valley population growing, the alternative to density in the cities is housing development leaking out along the highway and development in the rural parts of the county, which are more sensitive in terms of wildlife and other natural resources. Housing density in the city places people next to the services and amenities they require such as schools, parks and shopping.   It also reduces vehicles trips and traffic congestion with all its attendant negative environmental and safety impacts. Research and experience across the county has shown that more people living in a downtown area means a more economically vibrant downtown with greater tax revenues for the city.  
 
Greater density does mean people living in closer quarters and looking at their neighbors. The key to successful density is good design to ensure it is aesthetically pleasing and ensures some degree of privacy for residents.  VARD’s Kim Billimoria stated that the way Driggs deals with the design question going forward will determine the success of infill development.  Driggs will be introducing a mixed-use residential zone in the next few months, which will hopefully facilitate this process.  In Victor, the proposed traditional neighborhood design (TND) overlay is a tool for giving the option for high densities for in-town development while laying out very specific design guidelines.  Commissioner Rick Baldwin said that as a design professional he is confident that the density proposed by McInnis could be good but it requires some design guidelines and expectations.  He said that the city thus far has stayed out of residential design review but is one of the few places that has for this type of development.  

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