Wary to invite more development without a comprehensive plan update, the Driggs City Council decided to deny the annexation and rezone of an 11.2-acre parcel on the south side of town.
At the Dec. 18 meeting, the Leona Grover Family Trust sought to annex the property into the city and rezone it for commercial uses in order to make more attractive to potential buyers. Sharon Woolstenhulme with AW Engineering represented the applicant and explained to the city council members that the family had no intention of developing.
“We’re just talking about a bare piece of ground,” she said in response to public resistance to possible development.
The property, which is on Highway 33 north of South Bates Road, is surrounded on three sides by land within the Driggs city limits and is zoned for residential development.
Because annexation would require a rezone, Driggs planning staff recommended it become a commercial mixed-use zone with a limited commercial footprint. The staff and the planning and zoning commission also recommended other conditions for any future development, including wetland delineation, necessary permits from the Idaho Transportation Department, connection to the Driggs sewer system, and approval from the Design Review Advisory Committee.
While the city’s current comprehensive plan outlines mixed-use development on the south side of town, the city is in the process of updating the 11-year-old plan. Because the new plan is in the works and will likely be released next year, the council members were concerned that the community might change its mind about what it would like to see at the city’s southern entrance.
“We aren’t sure what the public wants in this area,” said Councilwoman Erika Earles.
Councilman Wade Kaufman was not present but he sent his comments to the council. His message read: “I feel like this [annexation] is purely for the benefit of the property owner to sell the property, not in the interest of the City of Driggs to help with expansion of the city’s commercial growth. I feel like this is a sprawl movement that goes against what we have been trying to do in developing the city from the center out.”
At Tuesday’s meeting several people spoke against the annexation and rezone. Cindy Riegel, who spoke as a civilian rather than a county commissioner, said that the city should be pursuing affordable housing strategies.
Niki Richards, representing Valley Advocates for Responsible Development, said that “speculative development seems to be increasing” in the valley. She suggested that every annexation and rezone application should require an agreement that specifies the type, scale, and design of any future development.
Ciara Thomas spoke as a representative of Creekside Meadows, the subdivision across the highway from the property in question. She said that the demand is low for commercial lots in Driggs and that residential development is more important.
“The market’s just not there,” Thomas said. “We need to focus on homes.”
While the council was leaning toward denial, the city attorney, Stephen Zollinger, reminded them that bringing the parcel into Driggs’ jurisdiction gave the city significantly more control over development there.
“County code doesn’t have even a whisper of the controls that we do,” Zollinger told them. “The county is a free-for-all when it comes to development.”
Regardless, the council members unanimously voted to deny the annexation and rezone because they felt that a commercial zone in that area was inappropriate at this time.