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Council creates infrastructure exception for small developments

Article Date: 
29 June, 2012 (All day)

 Although subdivisions developers are still required to improve infrastructure along existing county streets, small subdivision developers may catch a break with a recent code amendment. 
Before, all subdivisions no matter the size were required to improve infrastructure fronting county roads.  Now, developers of subdivisions with eight lots or fewer may be able to get out of the requirement with county approval.
“We wanted to allow some smaller subdivisions an out from that, while still not (letting) large and career developers to shift responsibility onto the public,” said Charlie Ewert, county planner.
However, subdivisions within 300 feet of existing infrastructure improvements must likewise install similar infrastructure, no matter the size of the subdivision.
“I look at this as helping out the ‘Ma and Pa’ subdivisions,” Councilwoman Ronda Kippen said.  
Improvement could mean widening an existing county road, adding acceleration and deceleration lanes, as well as installing sidewalks, gutters and park strips.  Examples of such improvements can be seen at the entrance to Rollins Ranch and the Cottonwoods.
Some council members and the residents were uncomfortable with the ordinance change.
“How can you make me build my road to county standards, when the county isn’t even going to build roads to county standards?” asked Councilman Ned Mecham.  He noted that the upcoming work on Old Highway Road extending south from the Y won’t meet county standards, including road width.  “I have the hardest time with this ordinance.”
Mecham noted that Morgan Valley Drive is flanked by hillsides and ditches, and widening the road is either impossible, or would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when considering the need to move utility lines.
The provision for an exception goes against the idea behind the original ordinance that new development pay for infrastructure on the roads they are impacting, Planning Commissioner Debbie Sessions said.    
“It should be all or nothing.  Either all new development pays its way, or no development pays its way,” Sessions said.  “I don’t think the county needs to be in the business of picking winners and losers.”
Council Chairwoman Tina Kelley agreed.
“I have always felt development should pay its way,” said Kelley, the only council member to cast a nay vote for the code change.  “I really have issues with having the exception.”
The plan would be that the county would eventually install such infrastructure on all county roads in between where developers installed improvements to their subdivisions. Ewert said following this ordinance is simpler than creating special service districts.  
“Now we are going to have little chunks of road wider,” Mecham said.  “It will take away from the rural atmosphere of the county.”
Sessions suggested the county conduct a traffic study to determine the county’s cost of getting all public roads “up to snuff” with infrastructure.  The study could help justify increasing impact fees to help pay for roads. Kippen noted that the county is collecting more impact fee money for parks than it is for roads.
Drawing the line at eight lots would be consistent with other county codes defining what makes a large and small subdivision, Kippen said.