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City gives subdivision tentative approval

| August 19, 2005 12:00 AM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

A proposed 61-lot subdivision on 19 acres off Hamann Avenue received tentative approval from the Libby City Council on Monday despite concerns and confusion regarding the width of streets accessing the development.

The council's approval of developer Jim Beasley's Creek View Estates included several conditions recommended by the county's planning staff along with another condition added by the council requiring clarification of street width issues.

The planned development is not currently located within the city limits; annexation into the city is one of the conditions of the subdivision's approval.

At a public hearing a week before the council meeting, area residents expressed concerns about street width and traffic flow. Councilman Doug Roll said at Monday's meeting that he would like to see wider streets than the 24-foot roadways contained in Beasley's proposal.

"Where do we stand on this?" Roll asked. "He's not in the city."

Street width can be made a condition of annexation, said city supervisor Dan Thede. City regulations require a 40-foot width for streets, Roll noted, adding that something between 24 and 40 feet might be a good compromise for the subdivision.

The 40-foot width requirement is designed for through streets with on-street parking, Beasley said. He said the streets in the subdivision wouldn't be through streets and that parking would be off-street. County roads are built with 24-foot driving surfaces, and some streets in the city also have 24-foot widths without the curb and gutter planned for the streets in Creek View Estates, Beasley said.

The issue of the width of the streets in the subdivision will be going before the city's Board of Adjustments in September, Beasley said.

Councilman Stu Crismore said he would like a clarification on whether the Board of Adjustments has authority over streets.

"I need to know where our authority lies and what we can do," he said.

The city needs to follow the same policy for everyone, said Councilman Gary Huntsberger.

"We need to be consistent," he said.

Beasley said his understanding is that the Board of Adjustments would make a recommendation to the council, and the council would make a decision based on that recommendation.

In practice, the city has given the Board of Adjustments the authority to make its own decisions on variances, with those issues not coming to the council unless they are appealed, Roll said.

"Our policy is unclear on this," Crismore said.

Roll said he would like a clarification of the procedure.

Beasley took issue with one of the conditions of approval recommended by the county. The recommendation calls for a 10-foot right of way along the street to be ceded to the county in the area of three of the subdivision's lots, along with 20 feet in the subdivision's park area, unless Second Street is adopted by the city. Beasley said he won't give up the right of way unless the county is able to obtain the same concession from the rest of the property owners along the street.

"An extra 10 feet on a 150-foot section of it is not meaningful," he said.

Mayor Tony Berget pointed out that the Second Street issue will be moot if the city adopts the street. He suggested that the council accept the county's recommendations and deal with Second Street later.

Beasley has his plan for the development to provide affordable housing for local residents. He said he plans to build one "spec house" at a time, not building another until each is sold. Lots would also be available for sale to people who want to build their own homes. The subdivision will be developed in five blocks, and new blocks won't be opened to buyers until the lots on the previous block have been sold.

In other business, the council gave preliminary approval to a four-lot subdivision on 1.18 acres along Commerce Way and took a first look at a proposed five-lot medical subdivision on land owned by St. John's Lutheran Hospital.

Majestic View Estates, proposed by owner Joe Leyba, splits one parcel into four ranging in size from .272 to .317 acres. The Kootenai River Health Park would create five lots ranging from .47 acres to .88 acres with access from Second Street. Hospital chief financial officer Ron Wiens said one of the lots has already been pre-sold to the Lincoln County Community Health Center.

"They're almost like an anchor store in a retail mall, because we'd really like to see that area developed back there," Wiens said.

The council plans to take action on the proposal at its next regular meeting on Sept. 12.