#Residential Disputes
Idaho Falls Planning & Zoning Commission, City of Idaho Falls, and Rockwell Homes
United States of America

Target: Idaho Falls Planning and Zoning Commission, Idaho Falls City Council and Public Works.

This petition is regarding the proposed Manchester Estates residential development ("Development"). We are neighborhood community residents writing to express our serious concerns about this Development. The proposed initial design of the Development fails to comply with the Idaho Falls Comprehensive Plan ("Comprehensive Plan") for residential development in the following listed ways - most specifically due to its use of “reverse frontage” lots that result in a row of back fences along Stonebrook Lane and Castlerock Lane.
Additionally, this design does not support the Comprehensive Plan due to the following: creates confusion for who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalks outside the proposed fence per the Idaho Falls walkway snow removal ordinance; increases safety hazards for neighborhood pedestrians; and possibly reduces property values by reducing walkability.

Noncompliance with the Idaho Falls Comprehensive Plan:
1. The Purpose section of the Comprehensive Plan states that residential areas should be: “Treed residential areas with a strong sense of identity, served by neighborhood parks and schools…” The vast majority of homes within the surrounding neighborhood have the front of homes facing the street (the only exceptions to our knowledge are three homes, out of several hundred homes, situated across from a public entity - Taylorview Middle School). In contrast, the proposed design of the Development has the backyards/ back fences of homes facing Stonebrook Lane and Castlerock Lane. This would significantly degrade the identity of our neighborhood by creating an inward-facing sub-neighborhood within it, fronted by blocks of possible mismatched fencing, which would be highly inconsistent with the appearance and identity of the surrounding neighborhood. Conversely, the houses within all six surrounding housing subdivisions all have trees and landscaping. The developer’s representative stated at the May 7 public hearing that they are not required to provide landscaping for the Development, which would be in marked contrast to the consistent look and identity of the surrounding neighborhood subdivisions.

2. Implementation Strategy #1 states: “Develop a program to involve neighbors in the community development process early.” Prior to the public hearing on May 7, 2019, the developers of the Development, Rockwell Homes, did not solicit input from the neighboring community. Since the May 7 public hearing, even after being strongly encouraged to do so by several members of the Planning and Zoning Commission at the hearing, the developers have still not solicited input from the community.

3. Standard #1 states: “A park sufficient to meet neighborhood needs shall be provided to serve residential development…with tot lot, picnic areas, landscaping, including trees, and passive green space.” The proposed plan of the Development lacks these elements, and the representative from Rockwell Homes stated at the public hearing that they are not required to install landscaping in their developments. By contrast, a good example of a use of drainage space can be found in the Waterford development, which includes all those elements. (See photo)

4. Standard #4 states, “Residential lots adjacent to arterial streets shall have reverse frontage…” and Standard #3 states, “Arterial streets should be located along the perimeter of residential neighborhoods…” Neither Stonebrook Lane nor Castlerock Lane are arterial streets; instead they are collector streets in the center of our neighborhood. The proposed Development places reverse frontage lots in the center of the neighborhood, which does not meet the intent of Standard #4.

5. Standard #11 states: “On collectors, sidewalks and pedestrian ways should be…designed to convey pedestrians to schools and neighborhood services.” The enclosed design of the Development, with reverse-frontage lots along Stonebrook Lane and Castlerock Lane, discourages pedestrian traffic by increasing length of travel. For example, the location of the house at the corner of Castlerock and Stonebrook (Block 2, Lot 6), adds approximately 1,000 feet to the walk to Sunnyside School by requiring residents to walk south to Plantation and then double back on Stonebrook. The Comprehensive Plan explicitly points out that short walking distances are particularly important in Idaho Falls due to our long and snowy winters (Comprehensive Plan, p. 34).

6. Standard #13 states: “Bikeways should tie residential neighborhoods to schools…” As with the pedestrian walkways, the reverse fronted, fence-enclosed design of the Development discourages biking by increasing distances.

Confusion about IF sidewalk maintenance and snow removal ordinance:
1. Idaho Falls City Code Section 8-10-1 requires that residents clear snow, ice and other obstructions on sidewalks abutting their property. With the reverse frontage design of the proposed Development, it’s unclear who would be responsible for clearing sidewalks along the outside of the fence. It is unrealistic to expect that homeowners within the Development will consistently shovel snow on the other side of a 6-foot fence. If it is not the homeowners’ responsibility, then it remains unclear whose responsibility it will be. This confusion also applies to sidewalk maintenance responsibilities. Further, there is no clarity on who will be responsible for the maintenance of the strip surrounding the fence, which implies that trees in that area will not be maintained (possibly resulting in hazardous low branches) or replaced (in the event of a tree dying).

Safety hazards:
1. At the May 7 public hearing, many residents expressed concern for the impact of the Development’s design on traffic speeds. Their concerns are well-grounded: the likelihood of a pedestrian injury or fatality in traffic increases from 10% at 30 mph to 30% at 40 mph and speed has been a factor in about one-third of traffic accident deaths in the past 20 years . A recent article summarizing research by traffic psychologists at several different universities supports the contention that the presence of houses next to roads slows down driving speeds, regardless of the posted speed limit, by providing visual cues to drivers to ease up. The proposed design of the Development, with rows of fencing along Stonebrook and Castlerock Lane, will not provide such visual cues to drivers to slow down, and will therefore contribute to increased traffic speeds and safety hazards.

Effects on property values:
1. Walkability – defined as the ability to walk to schools, parks, shopping and other amenities – is an increasingly valued feature, with 56% of millennials reporting that walkability is very important to them (American Planning Association). Moreover, a study on walkability by Redfin, the real estate website, found that a one point increase in Walk Score correlates to an average $3,000 increase in property value. The Walk Score is based heavily on distance, with maximum score awarded for distances below 1,320 feet. The proposed Development unnecessarily increases walking distances up to 1,000 feet due to its reverse frontage design and thus would likely negatively impact property values by reducing Walk Scores in and around the Development. This could in turn weigh down surrounding home values since property values are linked to nearby “comps” (nearby similar home values).

We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the Planning Commission withhold approval of the Development until the developers conform to the Comprehensive Plan, including:

1. Seeking input from the surrounding residents (at minimum, the subdivisions adjacent to the property: Castlerock, Stonebrook, Canterbury Park)

2. Proposing a design that:
a. Maintains the sense of identity within the neighborhood;
b. Removes the reverse frontage design and the possible fences abutting the streets surrounding the new houses;
c. Includes landscaping and trees, thus keeping a consistent look with the neighborhood and providing visual cues to drivers to slow down;
d. Includes bike lanes on collector streets that connect to Stonebrook’s existing bike lanes; and
e. Adds a public green space that has a tot lot, trees, landscaping and picnic area.

* Although we greatly appreciate the support of everyone, please sign only if you are a resident of Idaho Falls, Bonneville County, Idaho or own property therein.
** For additional information, including links to mentioned articles and original paper petition, please e-mail author.

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The Require Manchester Estates Proposed Residential Development to Comply with I.F. City's Comprehensive Plan petition to Idaho Falls Planning & Zoning Commission, City of Idaho Falls, and Rockwell Homes was written by Idaho ACT Committee and is in the category Residential Disputes at GoPetition.