TWIN FALLS — City Council approved revised plans for a mixed-use development near the canyon rim after rejecting a previous version of the proposal in December.
During its meeting on Monday, the council approved an annexation and zoning district change for an 11-acre parcel of land at the corner of Federation Road and Washington Street. The site is across the road from the canyon rim trail parking lot in the northwest part of the city.
According to meeting documents, the developer, Hepworth Family Landholdings, plans to build six commercial properties on the north half of the lot and housing on the south portion.
In December, the council shot down the developer’s proposal of building 26 fourplexes, totaling 104 units, on the south part of the lot. Numerous residents who live in the single-family housing neighborhood to the west of the property spoke up at that meeting and raised concerns about the project’s density.
The City Council will now decide if the modified project is a good fit for the empty parcel of land at the corner of Washington Street and Federation Road.
The majority of the council agreed with these concerns and directed the developer to come back with a scaled-down project. On Monday, the developer pitched a plan to turn seven of the fourplexes into duplexes, reducing the number of housing units by 14. The new plans also move the housing farther away from the fence line of nearby single-family homes.
Residents who spoke at the meeting said these changes don’t go far enough. Many of them said they purchased their homes with the knowledge that this lot was zoned for lower-density housing like single-family and duplexes.
Kirk Melton, who said he was speaking on behalf of many of his neighbors, said even with this change, the project doesn’t fit with the surrounding area.
“Now that the duplexes have been put in there, the council can look at that map and see it with that suggestion as to whether it fits or not,” Melton said. “And I would submit, and I think my neighbors would as well, it’s basically the same. It still doesn’t fit. The addition of duplexes doesn’t change much.”
Nearly 20 residents who live near the project site spoke in opposition of the plans during the meeting. They raised concerns about the amount of traffic the project would generate on roads that they say are already experiencing congestion. Aside from this congestion, they also expressed concerns about families being able to cross the road safely to reach the canyon rim trail.
Twin Falls is becoming an entitlement city, and that means new money for things like fixing up old homes to help moderate and low-income people.
Tim Vawser with EHM Engineers represented the developer at the meeting. He said that some of the work the developer will complete — such as widening roadways, building sidewalks and installing a crosswalk to reach the trail parking lot — will improve traffic issues in the area.
“We do believe what we’re willing to do on Federation Road helps the traffic pattern there and we believe that having sidewalks on both the south and the north side of Federation Road will allow safe portions in order for pedestrians to pass over and get on canyon rim trail,” Vawser said.
The council approved the annexation and zoning district change proposal with a 5-2 vote. Councilmembers Christopher Reid and Craig Hawkins voted against the motion.
Reid encouraged the developer to meet with the nearby residents to try to address some of their concerns. He noted that this is just one of the many votes that will come before City Council regarding this development as permits are issued and the project moves forward.
“I believe that we can come together and work on this,” Reid said, “but if we have a community that’s going to fight this every step of the way, it’s not worth it putting this in.”
Councilmembers who supported the motion noted that the developer made changes to the project to try to make it more palatable for nearby residents. They also said that this project, one that mixes commercial and residential uses, is the exact type the city wants to see more of according to its comprehensive plan.
“This isn’t one developer’s one-off idea trying to convince the seven of us to go along with them,” Councilmember Shawn Barigar said. “It is a community vision that we’ve had for years, and I’m excited to see the investment.”