Talent delays subdivision call
TALENT — Conflicting testimony prompted the city's Planning Commission to delay a decision on approval of a 140-unit, 39-acre subdivision in the town's southwest hills Thursday evening.
"The waters are made a little murkier by some of the issues the attorneys have raised," said Planning Commission Chairman Sherman Lamb. After nearly an hour of testimony, attended by more than 50 people, the public hearing was closed.
Lamb proposed and commissioners agreed to continue with deliberations during the evening, but to postpone a decision until the Dec. 20 meeting to allow time for the city attorney and planning staff to address issues raised during the testimony.
"Obviously this is what you have when you have a democracy," said Eric Touzet, a project designer employed by Artner Property Development LCC, the project developer. The hearing had already been continued from an Oct. 25 commission meeting.
Commissioner Cynthia Care, noting that "the testimony seemed contradictory," suggested the commission deliberate to frame questions on key issues of housing density allowed within the project, buffers required for adjacent exclusive farm-use land and clarification of requirements for another access to the property.
A second access for the property was required by the City Council as a condition under which it approved annexation of 12 acres for the project. But the annexation is contingent upon approval of the entire project by the commission.
"We believe this application should be denied," said attorney Sydnee Dreyer, representing several property owners who live adjacent to the project site. "We don't believe there is substantial evidence in the record to support (availability) of a second access."
Dreyer also claimed that 40-foot buffers meet just the minimum standards required by the area's zoning and that Jackson County would require 200-foot buffers in a similar situation. City regulations recommend buffers ranging from 40 to 100 feet, she said. A lack of dedicated park lands on the site should also lower the density of the development, Dryer said.
Legal research has established that the site has a second access, said Mike La Nier, a consultant to Artner. Requirements for upgrading the second access wouldn't need to come into play until after a first phase of 30 units is constructed, La Nier said.
Initial access to the property would be via Belmont Road. The developer would build a tunnel underneath the railroad tracks to use Belmont. Several speakers questioned the ability of emergency equipment to use such an access.
"We think that's gong to work," said District 5 Fire Chief Dan Marshall. "Our staff has consulted with the city and the applicant on the underpass."
Underpass width would be sufficient to allow vehicles to leave the area and emergency equipment to enter in the event of a large fire, Marshall said.
Urban growth boundaries drawn up in 1974 included the site for future development. A total of 26 acres are already within city limits. City planning staff has recommended approval of the project.
Artner would like to start construction on the first phase next year, said La Nier. A fourth and final phase wouldn't start until 2012, he said.