On Monday evening, Bellevue City Council again voted unanimously to table discussion of changing local laws that would allow new, larger-scale apartment buildings on Main Street.
Designed to address the continuing housing shortage in the valley, the proposed code change would increase the size of licensed buildings from 28,000 to 36,000 square feet between Cedar and Chestnut streets, running the length of the original townsite of Nice view. As written, the units could be as small as 350 square feet.
Monday’s hearing followed a series of P&Z meetings to craft the in-depth review. The council addressed the subject on October 27, a meeting that revealed strong differences among council members over the changes that could shape the city for many years to come.
On November 8, Director of Community Development and Construction Services Diane Shay presented council with a map of the proposed area, including the 6-acre parcel that has been for sale for many years.
“Since the last meeting, this has sparked a lot of debate,” Shay said.
The city council then opened the floor for a lively public comment.
A man who identified himself as Chris Watson asked if there had been any studies on the potential effects of residential expansion on property values, negative or positive.
“It looks like it’s taking away what could be a Main Street business,” Watson said.
He was told that no study had been done.
Gary Poole helped develop the Silver River Apartments in Hailey. He assured people that this infrastructure would not hurt property values.
“Vacant land doesn’t give an area value,” said Poole, who supported the change. “You will create jobs. You will create a community. He proposed the idea of having “mixed-use” shops, backed by housing. Poole added that new housing would encourage people to walk to downtown businesses.
Jeff Pfaeffle, the Ketchum area developer behind Bellevue’s new Strahorn Subdivision, said he couldn’t see any tricycles on Main Street.
“The face of Main Street should be more commercial in character,” Pfaeffle said.
Tom Blanchard raised the issue of parking, saying the city first needed a bus line running through Bellevue. He’s also concerned about the move to AirBnb units. (In a previous meeting, Bellevue City Attorney Rick Allington said under state law the city itself has no way of restricting short-term rentals. .)
Jim Williams called the plan a “knee-jerk reaction”.
“It’s a lot at the same time,” he said. “It benefits the developers, but I don’t know if it benefits the residents of Bellevue.”
Pfaeffle then said the city needed to hire a planner to get the greatest flow of traffic in and out of the city in order to grow businesses.
City Council President Kathryn Goldman agreed the proposal raised many lingering questions.
“We want our community to be a pedestrian and vibrant place,” Goldman said. “I don’t think we have all the answers yet.
City councilor Greg Cappel remained skeptical of the measure on Monday.
“If you go too fast,” he said, “you are going to make irreconcilable missteps.”
City Councilor Jennifer Rangle added that she would like the shopping area to remain commercial, but admitted there was a housing crisis.
Mayor Ned Burns acknowledged the time spent by the Planning and Zoning Commission on this matter. “I don’t want to overlook the hard work they’ve put in on this,” Burns said.
City Councilor Sean Mahoney wanted to dispel the idea that families don’t belong on Main Street.
“I have lived on Main Street most of my life,” said Mahoney. “If you don’t have people downtown, you don’t have business downtown.”
Eventually, Goldman offered to file the matter. All the other members of the city council agree.