Sugar City to hold public hearing on new development plan for Old Farm Estates

SUGAR CITY — It was legal for Sugar City's City Council to approve a public hearing to consider an update of Old Farm Estate’s development plan. It also was lawful for the City Clerk to send a legal announcement to the Standard Journal last week to be printed in Tuesday’s edition, City Attorney Dylan Anderson said.

That public hearing is scheduled at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, and is tentatively planned to be held at City Hall.

Anderson told the City Council that it serves as the city’s governing board, and is free to hold a public hearing without input from the City’s Planning and Zoning Board.

“There’s no zone change before you. There’s no plat. There’s no zoning condition. There’s no variance. You are perfectly within your authority to hold a public hearing,” Anderson said.

The City Council met Monday night during a specially called meeting to discuss and review the amended development plan for Old Farm Estates. The plan hasn’t been updated in nearly a decade. Last year’s settlement with Old Farm Estates developers Ryan and Jeff Lerwill included an agreement to review and possibly update the development plan.

“These aren’t necessarily legal issues. They are conditions. Passing this won’t affect the settlement,” Anderson said.

Resident Barbara Lusk raised a “point of order,” and Mayor David Ogden let her speak.

“You keep avoiding the fact that P&Z hasn’t reviewed it. It’s still a development plan that comes under the state code (of) land use issues to go first before the Planning and Zoning commission,” she said.

She cited state code 76-6509 requiring a P&Z board to hold at least one public hearing on development plans.

“Any public hearing on Old Farm Estates is premature at best and should be postponed until proper evaluation,” she said.

Anderson said he understood there are differing opinions on the development plan, but emphasized the City Council has the final say on the matter.

“The City Council always has that authority,” he said.

The Lerwill’s representative Jeff Pavlovich attended the meeting and asked that Lusk’s statement not be considered.

“I would like her comments stricken from the record. It’s not proper,” he said.

Mayor Ogden reminded the group the meeting wasn’t a public hearing.

“It was merely a point of order and not (about) the issue at hand in dealing with legalities. I’m OK with that,” he said.

City Engineer Dick Dyer, who worked on the original development plan, reported that the development agreement’s purpose was to “memorialize the agreements” made previously between the original estate’s developer and the city.

Dyer noted that the original water, sewer and transportation study had been ratified by a previous P&Z Commission. The study ensured that previous contractor mitigated the impact on residents. After the economy tanked during the recession, there remained little economic incentive to continue with the project. Once the economy improved, and the Lerwills purchased the property, the city agreed to modifications and zoning changes at Old Farm Estates, Dyer said.

“Those kinds of things require an adjustment to the original development agreement to have things congruent and current and match and be together,” he said. “(The settlement) also indicated it would be good to update and amend and restate the development agreement.”

Dyer compared the amended development agreement to the original one “line by line” thus ensuring the city preserved commitments made to both the city and contractor. Dyer was satisfied with the agreement presented to the Council.

“It takes into account the changes that were made in the master plan, and the proposed developments coming forward and yet to be,” he said.

On Tuesday, Facebook commenters expressed concerns that the city sent the public hearing notice to the Standard Journal a week before Monday’s meeting.

Ogden cited Idaho State Code 50-1713 requiring cities to publish the upcoming meeting 15 days prior to the public meeting and to do so twice in a weekly paper. Nothing in the code mentions “when” a notice may be sent, Ogden said.

 “Open meeting law just says you post your notice 15 days prior. It doesn’t say how. It’s a nonissue,” he said. "As long as it's not posted in the paper before the decision, it's legal."

For more information on the upcoming hearing call the city at 208-356-7561.