City Council approves controversial Cougar Mountain subdivision
September 11, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
City leaders OK’d a Cougar Mountain subdivision after months of negotiations among the city, neighbors and the developer — and despite objections from neighbors about impacts to street parking and concerns about landslide risk.
In a unanimous decision, City Council members approved the subdivision, called Forest Heights — a proposal to add 24 single-family homes to about six acres on a 13.9-acre site. The agreement also set aside land for storm water detention and to preserve open space.
The proposed project site is northeast of Talus, south of Northwest James Bush Road and uphill from state Route 900, across from Tibbetts Creek Manor.
Officials approved the Forest Heights development agreement Aug. 6, after the Council Land & Shore Committee spent months sifting through details related to the plan.
“We dig into things in committee,” Council President Tola Marts said before the decision. “The hope is that when we get to the full council, we have addressed things at least to the satisfaction of a majority of the council members, if not to everyone in the process.”
The proposal galvanized residents in the nearby Talus urban village. Neighbors spoke against the proposal at a June 4 public hearing to collect input on the proposed subdivision.
But, because municipal development rules allowed the Forest Heights proposal to proceed, city officials could only impose conditions on the project to broker a compromise, and not stop the project outright, as some neighbors requested.
“Ultimately, this is a situation where you have a property owner of a very large property and property owners of individual residences, and we have to balance the needs and the rights of both of those interests,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said, and then acknowledged the neighbors’ apprehension.
“If it were in my backyard, I’d be concerned about it, too,” he said.
City officials held a public hearing before the hearing examiner in late March. (The hearing examiner is a municipal official responsible for certain development-related decisions.)
The hearing examiner recommended the council approve the project, but to apply some conditions to the agreement.
Under the conditions for the project, Talus residents can use the planned Forest Heights trail system, for instance, and can access lots along a retaining wall in the neighborhood to conduct annual inspections.
The council said the long process before approval strengthened the overall project.
“Many of these actions that we’re involved in, especially complicated ones, require a lot of detail and a lot of homework and a lot of work,” Councilman Fred Butler said.
The decision represented a milestone for Forest Heights. The applicant behind the project, Joseph Amedson, applied for the initial permit on the project in October 2009.
“I know it’s not perfect in the eyes of some people, but the city’s hands are tied with regard to some of the issues,” said Councilwoman Stacy Goodman, Land & Shore Committee chairwoman.
The council gathered input from Talus residents and homeowners along James Bush Road before the proposal returned from the committee for approval.
“I think that that made for a better project,” Goodman said. “We appreciate your insight. We appreciate you taking the time to come to talk to us.”