victor rental cabins.jpg

The proposed site for the Willows Rental Cabin Resort is off Highway 33 north of Aspen Street is highlighted in black. The developer wishes to build 28 short-term rental cabins on the four-acre property.

P&Z denies unpopular rezones

The Victor Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the denial of two rezone applications on Tuesday night.

Rezones often accompany increased development as people with land seek to facilitate projects that aren’t allowed within a property’s current zoning.

Ryan Kearsley is requesting the re-annexation and rezoning to industrial flex, or light industrial, of a ten acre (down from the original 60 acre) plot south of 7000S, far from the downtown core. He said he wants to develop more storage units there to address the growing demand for self-storage. The proposal has been met with an uproar from nearby property owners, who submitted a petition opposing the annexation and have attended every meeting in force.

The Kearsley annexation and rezone has been batted between P&Z and the city council since May, with P&Z denying it the first time, then council remanding it to P&Z when Kearsley offered a different plan. P&Z again denied the rezone on Tuesday, even though it was for a smaller area, saying that it was inappropriate and did not comply with the comprehensive plan.

In 2013 and 2014, the city de-annexed several hundred acres of land on the outskirts of town, including what is now the Kearsley property in question. The thinking behind the de-annexation was to help foster a compact, walkable city with sustainable infrastructure.

The city also surveyed the public in 2015 to gauge the community’s wishes for future growth in Victor. Respondents for the most part supported concentrating commercial development in the downtown core. They also made it clear they did not want strip mall development on any of the entrances to town.

The north entrance to town in particular has seen a lot of attempted rezones in the past year. On Tuesday, P&Z also reviewed a rezone that would allow 28 short-term rental cabins on a four-acre property north of Aspen Street.

In the report for the proposed Willows development, Victor planning staff recommended denial because future city growth will necessitate more residential and commercial uses of that corridor, and because the short-term rental market is reaching saturation in Victor.

Sarah Johnston of Arrowleaf Engineering presented the Willows application as a representative for the developer. She argued that the rezone did fit with the city’s comprehensive plan, and said the cabins adhered to the city’s new design standards and guidelines.

During the public hearing, Valley Advocates for Responsible Development executive director Shawn Hill referred back to P&Z’s decision in 2016 to deny a rezone for a new Broulim’s in the same area north of town. The company then withdrew its application before it went to the city council.

“You all recommended denial of that rezone request and in doing so you set a pretty high standard for what a rezone on this end of town should look like,” Hill said.

The commissioners agreed that while the proposed plan was aesthetically pleasing, they didn’t want more dense short-term development in the area.

“We’re getting a lot of camping opportunities, for lack of a better term, in the community, and I think long-term housing is potentially more important than more recreation projects,” P&Z chairman Christian Cisco said.

P&Z voted unanimously to deny the rezone. The city council will review the application in September.

Cottage court decision has unanticipated repercussions

The City of Victor’s decision to eliminate the cottage court building type from certain residential zones has resulted in a series of rezone applications for long-planned projects.

The city council adopted design standards and guidelines at the beginning of this year, which applies to cottage courts. The council then decided on Valentine’s Day to remove the cottage court as an accepted building type in RS-5 and RS-7 zones, residential zones that allow for 5,000 and 7,000 square foot minimum lot sizes respectively. The council did so under the recommendation of former planner Josh Wilson, who wanted cottage courts to serve as downtown infill rather than a profitable density bonus for developers on the outskirts of town. Cottage courts are now permitted only in RS-3 and residential multi-family zones.

Peter Braun purchased the 2.5 acres zoned RS-7 on the east end of Dogwood Street in January 2017 with the intention of developing cottage courts there with between six and 16 units, but lost that ability with the council’s decision.

Braun said that his development was poised to be “something really good for the city” that had received a lot of favorable comments along the way. He accepted the scrutiny of the new design review process but described the removal of cottage courts as “quite a blow.”

The city charges $2,498 to even consider a rezone, and additional fees may follow if review by a contracted specialist or other services are required. A rezone also takes at least two months just to work its way through P&Z and council public hearings, unless one body’s deliberation stalls the process.

P&Z approved Braun’s request for a rezone to RS-3, stating that cottage courts were appropriate to the surrounding areas and that his development was the intended application for the cottage court building type.

“One bad use of a cottage court doesn’t destroy the word ‘cottage court,’ or it shouldn’t anyway,” Cisco said, referencing the poorly received Meadows development on Highway 31.

The Mountainside Village master plan, approved after painstaking review in 2005, also included cottage courts in a RS-7 zone abutting the eastern hillside, a development opportunity no longer available in that zone.

With some frustration, Mountainside developer Larry Thal addressed the council.

“I do think there is a discussion of fairness here,” he said. “How many times do you have to go through a process? Just because nothing got built, no new phases were done for ten years, that shouldn’t negate the approved master plan that literally went through years of review.”

Thal ended his comments with a veiled threat. He said if Mountainside Village keeps its current zoning and disregards its master plan of green spaces and clustered dwellings, there is the potential to make up the lost density by building “somewhere else,” at which point he gestured at the hillside on his map.

The council continued the public hearing to its next meeting on Sept. 12 to give Idaho Fish & Game a chance to comment on the renewed development within important wildlife habitat on the Mountainside hill, and to give the public works department a chance to specifically address how the city water system can be improved to serve growth in Mountainside. On Sept. 26 the council will review the rezone applications P&Z deliberated on in August.