HERIDAN — Following a public hearing that turned contentious on more than one occasion, the Sheridan Planning Commission voted Monday to recommend the city council approve a high-density housing development project at Big Horn Avenue and Brundage Lane.
The preliminary conceptual plan and report will now go to the city council for approval by resolution.
If ultimately given the go-ahead, the Skyview West planned unit development project will allow for a 76-unit rental housing project, containing one-, two- and three-story townhome style structures, on a 6.8-acre parcel of land. The development is owned by Phoenix Limited Partnership, whose primary agent is Kim Love.
Several neighbors voiced objections to the project in recent weeks, leading members of the commission to table discussion of the issue at its meeting March 11.
Concerns about infrastructure, blocked views of the mountains, increased levels of traffic and government process were all called into question.
At Monday’s meeting, many returned to protest what they referred to as duplicitous maneuvers by city staff intended to bypass state statute and streamline development.
“Once again the city has misled us, and they are misleading you,” Nel Dahmke told commissioners prior to their vote.
Dahmke was among a group of neighbors who took issue with a change in terminology by the city as it related to the project.
Originally referred to in legal notices as a rezone request, city staffers recently re-labeled the project as a PUD overlay, changing the way it would ultimately be approved.
For an overlay, preliminary conceptual plans and reports must pass through the planning commission and then be approved by a resolution of the city council. The process is repeated to determine the final platting.
Rezones, on the other hand, require an ordinance that must pass three readings by the council following an approval by the planning commission.
Residents at Monday’s meeting argued that city officials had purposely amended the request in order to circumvent what they considered a more stringent approval process.
Following the criticism, city Planning and Economic Development Director Robert Briggs said initial announcements of a rezone request were made in error. Briggs told commissioners that backers of the project had intended to apply for an overlay.
“It’s not duplicity,” he said. “It’s my fault.”
According to a memo from Briggs to the commission, the proposed development consists of 76 townhome style units to be completed in two phases. The units in phase one, a 3.4-acre area adjacent to residents in the Colony South neighborhood, will consist of two-story units and phase two, which covers 3.4 acres on the corner of Brundage Lane and Big Horn Avenue, will include three-story units. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will be attached, with each unit having its own driveway, garage and entrance. The units will be occupied vertically by a single family.
At the meeting earlier in March, project manager Jeff Feck of Vista West Engineering said phase one of the development will follow several R-1 Residential zoning guidelines in order to match the look and feel of surrounding neighborhoods and address resident concerns. These include larger rear yard setbacks of 20 feet, neutral housing colors, a height of 27.5 feet on the two-story units, which is 7 feet less than the maximum allowed height in an R-1 zone, and much less density than would be allowed in a typical PUD.
These concessions in design were the result of the controversial nature of the property, which has been the subject of several purchases, subdivisions, rezoning attempts and proposed developments since 1996.
In 1998, the city council approved a rezone of Tract 1, adjacent to Brundage Lane and Big Horn Avenue, from R-1 to R-3 Residential. Tract 2, adjacent to the Colony South neighborhood, retained its R-1 zoning as a petition from nearby residents requested.
In 2010, Phoenix Limited Partnership sued the city over a zoning discrepancy between the city zoning map, which labeled both tracts as R-3, and a city ordinance that labeled Tract 1 as R-3 and Tract 2 as R-1. A summary judgment from the 4th Judicial District Court ruled in favor of the city zoning map and said both tracts should be considered R-3.
In May 2011, more than 200 nearby residents submitted a petition to rezone Tract 2 from R-3 to R-1 Residential. The petition was tabled for a year and a half while city staff and development engineers met with a committee of residents to discuss possible compromises, Briggs said earlier this month, noting that the conceptual plan, conceptual design report and preliminary plat before the commission reflected several of those compromises.
Public Works Director Nic Bateson also appeared before the planning commission Monday to ensure the group that city staffers were working to address resident concerns related to infrastructure.