In this issue:
- Fenn Hedges with Concurrent Review
- Victor P&Z Takes a Breather with Cottage Courts
Fenn Hedges with Concurrent Review
At their December 19 meeting, the Victor P&Z reviewed developer Jon Fenn's “Plan B” proposal for the 20-acre Fenn property in northern Victor along the Hwy 33 Frontage Road. In this proposal, Fenn would proceed with an approximate 100-unit Cottage Court Development allowed under current zoning. The “Plan A” for Fenn is a pending rezone that would permit small units designed specifically as short-term rentals and self-storage units. Just off the heels of a protracted, reluctant, and negotiated rezone review for the “Plan A” rezone, the Victor Planning & Zoning Commission was then asked to review a another plan less than one month later - while the rezone application is currently pending city council review.
Fenn's "Plan B" Concept Subdivision Proposal (click to see a larger image)
The meeting began with Victor City Planner Josh Wilson stating that the Concept Plan was completely independent from Fenn’s rezone request reviewed at the prior meeting. Rather, this was a parallel plan that Fenn submitted in case the proposed rezone was not approved by the city. In the event the City Council approves the rezone in process, Wilson explained that the subdivision process would begin anew with another, subsequent Concept Plan.
It took a moment for this to sink in. There was no explanation of the parallel processes in the staff report, and the public in attendance was hearing this information for the first time.
Adding to the confusion, developer Jon Fenn then stated he had nothing to present “because we spent so much time talking about this last time,” referring to the separate rezone application. Though Wilson clearly explained the parallel processes, the Commission then began asking questions about the plan presented at the rezone hearing, and what differences, if any, existed between the “Plan A” and “Plan B” applications. The Commission also asked if the application was complete without water and sewer depicted, and Wilson responded that it was. In response to various questions about the size of the buildings, placement of the buildings, common areas and open space, Commissioner Lynn Bagley then weighed in with his displeasure at the Commission’s task of having to review 2 applications simultaneously, and how concurrent review was putting the City Council in a similarly awkward position.
At the beginning of public comment, Valley Advocates Executive Director Shawn Hill stressed how confusing parallel applications were for the public, and asked for the Commission to not accept the “Plan B” Concept Plan application until the “Plan A” rezone application had run its course. He also asked the Commission to require a neighborhood meeting to be hosted by the developer, an option provided in Victor’s Land Use Code. He also cited Victor’s Code requiring the developer to provide information on infrastructure (e.g. water, sewer), which was absent in the proposal. Brendan Conboy, Associate Planner for the town of Jackson and former VARD employee, also cited code and procedural flaws in the application. Teresa Taylor stated that though the Commission had a history with the project, the public still lacked adequate information. Taylor concluded with an emotional plea to the commission to give the development careful consideration. Matt Thackeray, an architect and Victor resident, asked the Commission to commit to good design.
In the Commission’s deliberation, commissioner Jenn Fisher reminded her colleagues about the enormity of the project’s impacts - particularly its location at victor’s heavily-traveled northern gateway - and felt that concurrent applications should not be permitted.
The Commission then turned to City Planner Josh Wilson for confirmation of the city’s ability to deny concurrent review. Wilson stated that he believed denial of concurrent review was within the city’s rights, but directed the Commission to make the findings necessary to approve, deny, or deny the “Plan B” Concept Plan. Fenn then stated that the Commission was required by the city’s code to make a decision within 65 days, to which Valley Advocates Executive Director Shawn Hill responded by clarifying that the 65-day rule only applied if the city permitted concurrent review, and thus accepted the “Plan B” Concept Plan before the “Plan A” rezone application was approved by City Council. Hill then asked the Commission to reject the Concept Plan application until the city council rendered a decision on the rezone application.
The proposed development is in a highly visible area. Click here to view plan, staff report, public comments.
The Commission then struggled with how to interpret the 65-day rule, with both city staff and the Commission reading through Victor’s Land Use Code at the meeting to find an answer. Wilson again directed the Commission to approve, deny, or table the Concept Plan according to the approval criteria per the Victor Land Use Code. Struggling mightily with how to address the concurrent review question, the P&Z voted to table the application until January to give Fenn an opportunity to provide more information, and to allow the city staff to look into the legal and policy options for concurrent review.
The bottom line: This is a big proposal, and as Planning Commissioner Jenn Fisher noted, “this is a gateway to our town; [the developer] has a great responsibility to come up with something beautiful and welcoming.” Though the development is complex, we, as a community shouldn’t overthink process questions. Instead, we should take the time necessary to conduct a thorough review. The legal and policy foundation for good planning is strong: cities are granted broad zoning powers, and the Idaho Land Use Planning Act further enables thoughtful planning. Rather than getting tripped up in regulatory arbitrage, we should all recognize the situation for it is: a fundamental planning & zoning issue that requires careful review with a spirit of openness and collaboration. Thus, we should review big development proposals for a single property one application at a time.
Victor Takes a Breather with Cottage Courts
With revisions to Victor's "cottage court" ordinance, hopefully this won't happen again.
In the midst of a variety of housekeeping measures in Victor’s Land Use Code, the Planning & Zoning Commission also voted to strike Cottage Courts from the code until the city adopts design standards at their Dec 19 meeting. This recommended change will go to the City Council for final approval in January, at which time the council may also adopt an interim ordinance requiring design review for commercial and multi-family residential development in Victor. Commissioner Lynn Bagley had reservations due to concerns about a protracted delay in reinstating Cottage Courts, but P&Z chair Christian Cisco assured Bagley and the rest of the Commission that they’ll be eager to take up Cottage Courts and design standards in short order. We’ll keep you apprised.