With backs to the camera, Bear Lake Planning and Zoning Commission members Patrick Reese and Rob Smith prepare for a public hearing when an overflow crowd commented on a new 250-lot development proposal located South and East of St. Charles City limits.

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The County Planning and Zoning Commission met on November 17, 2021, with an overflow crowd in attendance. The agenda was modified to delete one lot split application and then unanimously approved. Welcoming those in attendance, Chair Albert Johnson commented that the P&Z is comprised of volunteers who gather information on proposals to be sure they meet the regulations in place and, in most instances, a recommendation is made to the County Commissioners who make the final decision.

An application for a lot split was presented by David Matthews on behalf of Maxine Matthews regarding acreage in St. Charles’ Dry Canyon. Prepared upon advice from Mitch Poulsen, Planning and Zoning Administrator, the application was for the eventual division of four lots from the main parcel over a 15-year period. Four 3-acre parcels would be created and the remainder would be reserved for the 5th family member. Matthews explained further investigation of the Subdivision Ordinance revealed agricultural acreage to be divided due to an estate settlement is an exemption from the more involved and lengthy processes. He requested consideration of the property division under that section inasmuch as the proposal settles an estate. Following debate, review of the Last Will and Testament by the Matthews’ parents and discussion of legal counsel’s comments as relayed by Poulsen, a motion was unanimously approved to allow the division under the exemption.

In the first public hearing of the evening, Gabe Lleras of The Reserve introduced an amendment to the development’s master plan which he said had been intended to include the property now identified as “Phase 8”. There is sufficient water, sewer is available but it had been learned the master plan did not include this property which now will be reduced from 50 lots to 40. P&Z legal counsel, Stephanie Boney, had advised a public hearing be held inasmuch as a master plan amendment appears to be administrative but no similar amendment had been proposed in the past. Former P&Z member Bill Stock stated the development had not owned the property at the time the master plan was approved and, consequently, the property had not been included. He said when the property was purchased that the developer would process the newly-acquired property as a stand-along application under the regular subdivision process. Concern was expressed over use of the overall development open space to meet the requirement for one lot per acre but the acreage for this phase is 44 acres for 40 lots, meeting that provision. Others commented on the proposal, expressing opinions regarding inclusion of the area in the original master plan, strong recommendations to adjust the entry location off Highway 89 and add a turn lane at that spot, and excluding a nearby, external road as an egress/ingress avenue for this phase. Lleras agreed with a turn lane and anticipated the access from Highway 89 could be adjusted. A unanimously passed motion was made to approve the master plan amendment which modified the development’s boundaries.

A public hearing was held concerning the preliminary plat for Phase 8 at The Reserve, addressing matters specific to that new phase. Discussion and comments centered on Highway 89 for purposes of emergency vehicle access, relocation of the entry, sewer lift station availability and exclusion of the nearby lane as an access point. Lleras expressed intent to install the entry wider than county standards to facilitate EMS with sufficient area to allow multiple cars to stop without blocking Highway 89 and also install a highway turning lane. Other comments appreciated the interior walking path along the irrigation canal, a request the bike path be extended through this phase as The Reserve done in the past, addition of storm water controls flooding from this parcel occurs to the east and a request for a traffic

study, especially with the trend for short-term rentals which increase traffic. Lleras agreed with a traffic study and intended to increase safety with a turn lane, adjust the entry point and simultaneously provide sewer pump station access, and conduct a storm water study to determine need for detention ponds. Concluding the public hearing, the Phase 8 preliminary application was approved with conditions involving studies for traffic control and runoff.

A third public hearing was held regarding the 7-Mile Subdivision preliminary plat application. Thom Morgan, owner of the development located east and south of St. Charles, made an opening statement. His remarks involved the reservation of 60% of the total area as open space, a comprehensive amenity package, compliance with ordinance provisions, work with a number of regulatory agencies as the development was initiated and while it progresses, and expectations for the development to be an asset to the area. Questions were raised concerning letters from regulators with Morgan responding most had been incorporated already and work continues to satisfy all issues. Morgan intended to discourage travel on 200 East or 400 South and use Highway 89 as the most direct access into the subdivision. Wetland areas on the north are pending with the Army Corps of Engineers and will be settled during Phases 4 and 5.

Expressing his view that St. Charles is the gateway to sewer service and has opportunity to gain more control over the development than, perhaps, the county does, Chair Johnson, requested input from St. Charles Mayor Alan Michaelson. After learning 400 South would not be gated, Michaelson requested Highway 89 become the ingress/egress point for the entire subdivision, avoiding all city streets. The City is in negotiations with the developer regarding sewer but no agreement had been reached, Michaelson said. Morgan later added that while negotiations had been undertaken, the previous day he had agreed to the city’s terms on sewer and only signatures remained. Water rights were obtained and Idaho Water Resources approved mitigation which will proceed as each phase is moved forward but the first three phases will be in place as soon as possible. Acknowledging the timeline to put the remaining mitigation into effect, Morgan stated there is more than sufficient and approved water for the entire development. In addition, irrigation water shares owned by the developer will be applied via a pressurized system which is anticipated to increase irrigation water available to other shareholders since the pressurized system will use approximately 50% of the amount previously expended through flood irrigation. Controlled and gated lake access for the subdivision owners will be obtained through Idaho State Lands. In response to a query on timing for a turn lane on Highway 89 as mentioned in the traffic study, Morgan intends to pursue that in Phase 1. Light pollution is to be addressed during architectural submission approval.

Chair Johnson mentioned he had read most recent public comments received where concern centered on the CCRs. Having read that document, Johnson felt it was “pretty restrictive and you aren’t allowed to do a whole lot with what you have,” adding that, “I wouldn’t live there!” Morgan explained the restrictions are purposely designed to maintain consistency and control so things are managed in a proper manner, including from an architectural standpoint. The developer concluded that short-term rentals would be allowed only through a full-time, on-site property manager responsible to assure group size. Because none of the homes will have basements, that lack will decrease the size of rental groups.

Opening the public comment period, Johnson cautioned comments should focus on the application in terms of the regulations in place then requested concise statements without revisiting topics given attention by prior speakers. Several developers, subdivision representatives and individuals

supported the proposal, expressing belief this developer would follow through as needed. Roy Bunderson quantified the positive tax revenue while strongly advocating private property rights to take the risks of developing within the current regulations. Questions and concerns were raised about new year-round residents’ ability to obtain employment and increased school needs; surrounding farming operations; beach access for surrounding residents; water storage, snow removal methods and roadway access for fire suppression purposes; cooperation with the Fish Haven Area Recreational Sewer District because it shares sewer lagoons with St. Charles; the “T” cul de sac configuration and EMS’ ability to serve the new community; impact fee imposition; consideration of the expansions in Garden City and The Reserve which have direct impact on roads from Logan Canyon through Bear Lake County as well as potential for multiple, simultaneous emergency calls and reaction times; garbage collection; lack of ambulance service volunteers on the west side of the valley and ability to reach the structure or individual; a request for a QRU (quick response unit) and housing for that vehicle; historical views of the lake, tourism expectations and agricultural base of the surroundings; development design and stretching resources such as law enforcement; ability to handle the increased population; whether annexation was considered; propane tank placement individually or grouped; wetland status and geologic strata to accommodate the new housing load; irrigation flood zone on norther portion of the development, redirection of the irrigation trajectory as a result of wetland drainafor ge; conversion of the valley to a highly developed status similar to Park City, Sun Valley or Lake Tahoe, support for turning lanes, fears regarding traffic safety and possibility of a speed limit reduction; avoidance of an economic failure; enforcement of CCRs; lack of benefit to St. Charles as a result of the subdivision; ditches redirecting water but changes in water level when drought ends and increased ATV usage due to the increased population.

Morgan identified studies and work done to address the hammerhead cul de sac design which was the result of land planners’ convincing the developer to utilize that configuration. He explained a more common circle shape has 10’ less turn around space than this design. He reiterated short-term rentals are to be managed through an on-site property manager, irrigation water will be pressurized and the 400,000 gallon water storage will be as inobtrusive as possible. Structures will not be sited on silt, fire hydrants are included using culinary wate and fire fighting capacity is part of the project. He would like to reach a solution for irrigation water to the Keetch farm while deterring water infiltration to the development. The HOA will enforce CCRs in the future but, until then, the developer will be the enforcement entity with ability to shut off water for infractions. The traffic study was performed pre-pandemic and covered low as well as high traffic periods. Gating does not occur at the highway and the restaurant mentioned is in Phase 1 and, it was announced, will require a zone change to commercial. As part of the redesign to accommodate St. Charles’ request to avoid city street connections, turning lanes will be designed in both directions on Highway 89. Regarding St. Charles’ sewer, the agreement includes upgraded pumps and a new lift station that will handle the increased flow and will be installed before any homes are connected. As to ATVs on St. Charles’ streets, Morgan anticipates the amenities inside the development mean there is no need to leave the property for entertainment. Morgan thought a nice donation may be made to the first responders and fire departments once the development commences and he is willing to have a discussion on housing a QRU.

After concluding the public hearing, the commission members reviewed the comments and expressed interest in the city’s sewer system and roads to be avoided while redesigning to flow onto Highway 89 instead; law enforcement, fire department and ambulance accommodations; fire flow in the

water system design; turn around size; solid A recommendations and potential to increase rates; wetland mitigation which rechanneled irrigation water; rezone for the restaurant and CCR controls. Expressing reservations about the overall impact of the subdivision and having some dislike of the changes from urban area residents in a rural area, the members reached the conclusion that the regulations have largely been met, the proposal is compact, controlled, well designed and may be one of the best scenarios. Vice Chair Kristy Crane felt the county commissioners should think about how we are going with such large population influxes and what direction the county will take in the future for safety and to assure well-controlled development to keep the farming community atmosphere but providing sufficient infrastructure.

Poulsen inserted that Stephanie Boney felt it is “hard to get a handle on impact fees” because a study must be done on the costs, they must be revisited to incorporate increases and the process is “complicated and won’t help us a whole lot” he said.

Upon motion and second, the preliminary plat was unanimously approved with conditions such as a St. Charles City will-serve letter for sewer service, St. Charles City agreement on roads and redesign to have traffic egress and ingress on Highway 89 with turn lanes. It was acknowledged the Idaho Transportation Department must participate in the traffic solution.

A correction was made to the prior meeting minutes which were then approved subject to insertion of missing language by Poulsen regarding the approval conditions issued in that meeting. Comments were made concerning a car lot that had previously been approved and the meeting adjourned at 11 PM.

Please be aware that Cache Valley Publishing does not endorse, and is not responsible for alleged employment offers in the comments.

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