A new Driggs property owner is requesting the annexation and rezone of a lot south of town. Only a year ago, the former property owner received a denial of the same application.
The 11.2-acre property is on the west side of Highway 33, north of South Bates Road, and is currently in the Driggs Area of Impact, meaning development has to be reviewed by both the city and county. It is zoned for multi-family residential uses.
In December of 2018, representatives from the Leona Grover Family Trust went before the Driggs City Council requesting that the parcel be annexed into the city and rezoned for commercial mixed use, with the hope that the change would make it more attractive to prospective buyers. In the city’s decade-old comprehensive plan, the recommended future land use map indicates that southwest Driggs is an appropriate area for mixed use development. However, the city is in the midst of revising its comprehensive plan, a process that should wrap up by this summer. That’s why the city council members were hesitant to approve the annexation and rezone the first time around; they wondered if citizens still wanted growth at the town’s southern gateway.
The council members also opted decided to deny the annexation because the applicant’s stated goal was simply to make the property more valuable.
Now Shelley businessman Gavin Mathews, who purchased the lot in June of 2019, is seeking the same changes.
According to Leanne Bernstein, the city planning administrator, Mathews intends to develop apartments on the southern part of the property. With its current county R-3 zone, the site could see apartments and other multi-family dwellings, offices, a daycare, or a nursing home, and with a conditional use permit a developer could build a motel or an RV park, among other options. With a rezone to commercial mixed use, apartments, town homes, live-work units, and shopfronts are permitted.
Driggs land use code says that commercial mixed use “should be applied in areas where the existing or proposed use pattern promotes mixed use and pedestrian-oriented activity.”
Only a block north of the property in question is the 13-acre 300 Main project, which was approved in 2008 as a dense mixed-use development with condominiums, retail space, offices, and cafes, and has stood vacant since then.
Bernstein explained that the developer’s rationale for the annexation request is that with denser residential development such as apartment buildings, it’s preferable to be on city water and sewer lines rather than to use a well and a septic system. Driggs requires that in order to connect to city services, a property must be within city limits.
Bernstein, who has been leading the comprehensive plan update, now has more of an idea of what citizens want to see in south Driggs. She said some people are advocating for a hard city boundary at Teton Creek, which is south of the Mathews property, while others think the city limits should be further tightened to encourage infill.
“We had a lot of good discussion and feedback,” she said of a recent series of comprehensive plan open houses. The city will soon release a summary of those sessions at uniquelydriggs.com.
Because the original public hearing notice for Jan. 8 was not published a full 15 days before the event, the Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission will review the annexation and rezone application at its next regular meeting on Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m. and will make a recommendation to the city council. Comments may be submitted beforehand to LBernstein@driggsidaho.org.