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Large subdivision project in Donnelly will move forward following appeal hearing

The Valley County Commission listened to an appeal for a subdivision in Donnelly with more than 100 lots, and decided to move the project forward.

Hess Properties’ Tamarack Falls Estates would be located off of Tamarack Falls Rd. and S Norwood Rd. The 124-lot subdivision would sit on about 80 acres of land.  

Appeal letter

The project was approved by planning and zoning last year but received a good deal of backlash from the community, with people sharing concerns about stormwater management and traffic. This led to an appeal letter with 48 signatures of people looking to overturn the planning and zoning commission’s decision.

Julie Thrower of Mountain Top Law represented the people who signed the appeal letter. The appeal argued that the project does not consider drainage issues and stormwater management, saying this would negatively affect surrounding property owners. Thrower pointed to “vague statements” from the applicant about how stormwater will be managed.

“I’m talking about a plan that at a minimum has some basic details of these basins, where they’re located, how excess water might be diverted,” Thrower said. “Minimum information so that these adjacent property owners can assess and comment on what they believe the proposed development is planning to have and how that may impact their substantial right to their property to be free from detrimental impacts of its proposed development. I don’t think that anybody intends to approve a bad project. But in this context, this process is supposed to gather the pertinent information to be able to make a good decision.“

Commissioner Sherry Maupin said she was not “seeing” the stormwater issue that the appeal argued.  

“The stormwater issue to me, I’m just not seeing it,” Maupin said. “I mean if that is the reason for this appeal. I am not seeing drainage issues in this area. And I’m looking at all of the same maps everybody else is… I’ve done a lot of planning in my time and I just don’t see it on this parcel of ground.”

Also on the appeal was that the applicant does not mention “potential” changes to surrounding wetlands and how drainage could impact Lake Cascade. 

“How can it be said that community rights are even considered when there’s no consideration of the impact to the development on Lake Cascade,” Thrower said. “Lake Cascade is supposed to be a recreational and economic asset for this community. To have a private developer propose a project close to its shores without any consideration of the impact it may have on the lake is not consistent with protecting individual property rights while considering community property rights. It’s also not consistent with the comprehensive plans goals of conserving and managing surface water and all its forms in order to prevent depletion or pollution. It is not consistent with protecting the recreational value of a town, or as water bodies and water forces, and it’s not consistent with considering the preservation of water quality and effects on wildlife ecosystems.”

Thrower took a moment during her 15-minute testimony to address concerns about traffic. The area where the subdivision would be built is near a direct access point to Donnelly and Highway 55, and it is a road used to access Tamarack Resort. 

One of the signatures on the appeal document was Margaux Edwards Crockett, a resident of Donnelly, and beneficiary of 30 acres of land south of the development. She, like many residents, voiced concerns about this subdivision. Edwards-Crockett pleaded with the commissioners, asking them to “listen” to the people that live in the county. 

“Coming from a ranching family and a lifetime resident of Valley County, I have grave concerns about the increased number of visitors and second homeowners that are changing the landscape,” she said. “It is important to preserve the character and local values that make this area unique. This development is not what we need. Please listen to our voices. We are the locals. We’re the ones that live here and have invested in here. And we need our voices listened to before out-of-town developers are. I implore you to consider the concerns of local citizens and reject Tamarack Falls Estates under these concerns.”

Rebuttal

Boise-based KM Engineering is working on the project and was also present at the meeting.

“I think the improvements that we’re planning for this property and in this area are going to vastly improve what’s currently here,” Stephanie Hopkins with KM Engineers said. “It’ll improve the drainage… currently, there are a lot of drainages that goes down to Lake Cascade, and with the retention pond that we’re planning as well as the check dams, and other drainage facilities it’ll capture more sediment loading that is currently going to the lake.”

In regard to the confusion about stormwater management, Joe Pachner with KM Engineering said the plan the team is working on will not affect surrounding properties. 

“We will have no net impact on the surrounding properties. We’ll be able to control it and drain it in a fashion that well. We have to maintain the historic flows…When you start developing roads and stuff through there, that convenience through a field is a lot slower and a lot more gets absorbed,” Pachner said. “So we have to take that into consideration to where it hits the road. It can hit a borrow pit and it can travel a lot faster. So all of this will be taken into consideration.”

Commissioners Elting Hasbrouck, Maupin, and Neal Thompson voted to deny the appeal and made a motion to send the project back to staff to eventually bring back to the commission for approval.

“First of all, this is not in the wildland-urban interface. This area is one that is currently developed and under development will continue to develop,” Maupin said. “… This has sewer and water on it, which is where development should occur. That is because we are close to a lake there are environmental concerns when we put too many wells and septics. So sewer and water in places does drive development.”

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Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson - BoiseDev Reporter
Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter focused on Meridian and McCall. Contact her at [email protected].

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