Concluding a tense city council meeting on Oct. 27, the Victor City Council voted unanimously to enact a six-month moratorium on development in the upper hillside pressure district.
The move comes as development proposals in that area of Victor are endangering the future ability of the current water system in the Upper Hillside Pressure District to provide required water pressures.
The Upper Hillside area serves two distinct areas on either side of Highway 33 southeast of Victor.
City attorney Herb Heimerl stated that other services-related moratoriums have been put in place recently by other Idaho locales that have been experiencing recent rapid development, such as Caldwell, Bloomington, and the whole of Jefferson County.
In an Oct. 14 email sent from city-contracted engineer Robert Hood of Sunrise Engineering to Victor Mayor Will Frohlich, Hood stated that “I recommend that no development should occur within the Upper Pressure Zone until a feasible solution and method to pay for it has been established.”
Continued development would cause “an imminent peril to the public health, safety, or welfare” of Victor residents residing within the zone according to the email.
The emergency moratorium is set to expire in six months, while all prior approved development can continue as scheduled.
Under the moratorium, incomplete subdivision applications and building permits will not be considered for the term of the moratorium.
Already approved development for Mountainside Village phases 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, and 6 as well as development in the Timberline subdivision can proceed as planned.
Public comments, mostly from area developers, were against the moratorium. Heading the displeasure was Mountainside Village developer Larry Thal.
“This moratorium is like cutting butter with a chainsaw,” said Thal. “There seems to be a pattern here that is obstructing the Mountainside Village Master Plan.”
“We’re making this more complicated than it needs to be,” Thal added.
Thal was worried about how the moratorium would affect the Mountainside Village phases 4, 5, and 6. Phase 4 and 6 already have some form of prior approval, but phase 5 does not.
Phase 4 has been deemed a complete subdivision application, but the building permits have not been issued due to water services concerns. The moratorium would then impede a start to construction on phase 4.
Phase 5 is hung up in the city approval process due to concerns with Hillside Overlay zoning issues which involve questions around services viability (including water pressure concerns), wildlife protection, and protection to historical public lands access. Included in phase 5 is a planned site for the water tank that needs to be installed.
Both the city council and planning and zoning commission have been working on the Hillside Overlay issue for just under a year.
One of the other main sticking points for the city was the financial side of the project and how funds for the tank will be gathered.
Thal stated that he has tried working on an agreement for Mountainside to fund the construction of the system on the site set aside in phase 5 of the Mountainside Village Master Plan.
Since phase 5 does not have a subdivision application that is deemed complete, there was worry from Thal that the moratorium would prevent that phase from going through city development processes. That includes site development for the system that Mountainside Inc. could be willing to pay for.
Thal, a representative for Mountainside Inc. (the development corporation in charge of Mountainside Village), suggested a quid-pro-quo with the city in which Mountainside Inc. would pay for the solution to the water pressure problem if the city then approves phase 5.
Council members did not believe that any quid-pro-quo could guarantee the appropriate system is installed, which would require an unfeasible amount of trust to be given to the developer to get the job done.
Another big sticking point centered upon the moratorium itself, and whether or not it is the appropriate thing to enact to discourage applications. Discussed was the idea of the city not enacting a moratorium and instead just stalling development-related applications.
On the surface, this alternative is more attractive for developers as development applications and applications for building permits could still be submitted to the city. In reality, however, the city would have to deny those applications (due to the water pressure issue) and developers would have to wait another year just to re-submit their applications.
The city and Mountainside Inc., therefore, agreed to implement the moratorium and “fast track” work surrounding the Mountainside Village phase 4 and 5 applications while the moratorium is in place.
“If we don’t pass the moratorium then we’re back to square one in my opinion,” said Mayor Frohlich. “To me, this (moratorium) is giving you exactly what you (Mountainside Inc.) want and working backward to wrap this thing up. It’s also helping city staff and the city not worry about any applications that are a dead-end essentially until we figure out what that end solution is.”
“Not only does the end solution solve for your issues right now but it also solves for the upper-pressure zone issue versus piecemealing it together which frankly sounds like what we’ve been trying to do for the last 15 years,” the mayor continued.
After the agreement was reached, city attorney Heimerl walked through the changes to the originally proposed moratorium which would allow phase 4 to go forward in the city application and issuance process.
“The addition is on all new approvals of any subdivision application that have not been accepted as complete. If it has been accepted as complete then it can move forward, with no incomplete applications or building permits. That’s what the moratorium would be on, building permits and subdivision applications that have not been vetted as complete yet.
An amended ordinance to install the moratorium was then enacted by the council unanimously.
The city and Mountainside will now work together, fast-tracking work on a solution to the upper-pressure zone issue. A space on the next city council agenda is set aside for these discussions.