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Controversial canyon rim project passes through P&Z again
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Controversial canyon rim project passes through P&Z again

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Density debate

The empty lot at the corner of Washington Street and Federation Road is likely to be converted to housing and commercial properties in the future. 

TWIN FALLS — A controversial canyon rim real estate project is heading to the City Council for a second time.

The Twin Falls Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved a modified proposal for new housing, office space and retail properties on an empty lot at the corner of Washington Street and Federation Road. The northern edge of that land is a stone’s throw away from the canyon rim.

The commission had approved a slightly different version of the same project in November. At both meetings, Hepworth Family Landholdings — the developer — was asking for a zoning change to allow for commercial and retail properties on the land, which is currently zoned for exclusively residential units.

The City Council will now decide whether or not to OK the project and zoning change. The council will also have to annex the land into the city limits for the development to move forward.

In December, the council rejected the project by a 4-3 vote, with opponents citing traffic concerns and saying the project included too many housing units on too small of an area.

After the City Council shot down the Federation Point plan, the developer had to modify the project before trying again for approval. The new master plan includes wider setbacks, plus seven of the fourplexes have been turned into duplexes.

Despite the modifications, a handful of homeowners who live next to the parcel spoke against the development, with some noting they wouldn’t have any problems with single family homes — they just don’t want office space, retail, duplexes and fourplexes.

“It’s just too much for one space,” Marie Tanner said. “It’s just too tightly packed in.”

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The current proposal includes 26 housing units — seven duplexes and 19 fourplexes — plus six other office space and retail buildings on 11 acres.

Chuck Brockway, of Brockway Engineering, lambasted the project.

“I’m pretty aghast at what I see here,” he said. “I’m sorry to say it, but this is an uninspiring, pedestrian, cookie-cutter development and the city’s under no obligation to accept this.”

Brockway said that the setbacks still aren’t wide enough and that fourplexes don’t belong in such a “very, very nice area of the city.”

“These are really budget units, they are not appropriate for the neighborhood,” Brockway said. “It is not the best use of this showcase piece of land.”

Stan Buckley, one of the Federation Point property owners, said that the fourplexes are “really upper scale,” and emphasized that Twin Falls has a housing shortage and desperately needs more units.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Carolyn Bolton was the lone commissioner to vote against the project, noting she would like to see it scaled back.

Besides Bolton, commissioners said the project fits the area well.

“Nobody likes big change, especially when you’ve got a nice field across from you and you can see the canyon,” commissioner David Detweiler said, adding that he doesn’t think the project will cause traffic issues. “I think it can be a great look for that area.”

The project will appear before the City Council on March 22.

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