By Michael Howell
The Hamilton City Council, at its regular meeting on November 7, agreed to grant the developer of the Paddocks Major Subdivision a three-month extension of the time period for filing a final plat for Phase 3. The current time period for filing the plat expires on December 31, 2012. Developer Nancy Pendergast had asked the council to grant a three-year extension and set a new deadline for 2016. The Council considered the three-month extension a compromise, giving them time to work out a plan that might address the current council’s concerns about the subdivision.
The request for a three-year extension was discussed at the last Committee of the Whole meeting. At that time concerns were expressed about the narrow width of the roads within the subdivision as well as the lack of any streetlights or sidewalks in the development. There was also concern expressed about the parkland dedication and whether or not the strip of land being left undeveloped through the center of the property over an existing gas line was actually parkland. Public Works Director Keith Smith said that as designed, it basically met no public work standards.
The preliminary plat, which was approved in 2005, shows only one road, but does show two “private drives” that would serve the condominiums proposed to be built on two of the lots. After it was recognized that the Council could not change things like the road width after giving preliminary plat approval, the option of denying the extension request was discussed. A few Councilors suggested that no action be taken, which would leave the deadline in place and the timeline would expire if the final plat was not filed in time. Then, they reasoned, the Council would have the option to make changes in the proposal when it was resubmitted. In a 4 to 2 vote it was decided to place the item on the council’s agenda.
At the council meeting, Attorney Royce McCarty spoke on behalf of the developer Nancy Pendergast. He said that Pendergast was unaware that the council was considering the matter in committee until reading about it in the Bitterroot Star. He said that his understanding was that the council was considering denying the request for extension in the hopes that if the filing deadline of December 31, 2012 was not met that the Council could re-negotiate the plat when it was re-submitted. McCarty said if the council was set on denying the request that one thing his client would consider is meeting the December deadline by posting a bond to cover all the final improvements. He estimated that the cost of the bond would be around $32,000.
“I think we could do that,” said McCarty.
But then he went on to say, “But we would like to approach the Council and rather than just say we are going to force this down your throat, we would like to work with you a little bit.” He said there were advantages to his client in not having to buy a bond. He said one reason for the extension request was the economy.
“With things not selling right now,” said McCarty, “it is a benefit to us to extend this thing out. But there could be benefits to the city as well if we can make some adjustments to our subdivision plan. That’s what we would like to do. We don’t want to fight the city.”
McCarty said one issue that they may not be in agreement on is widening the interior roads since it would mean tearing out the sewer and water lines that had already been placed. McCarty proposed a three-month extension to give them time to see what all the issues were and what accommodations might be acceptable.
Councilor Joe Petrusaitis said that they had always had a good working relationship with the Pendergast family and that he would like to try and work something out. Councilor Lynette Helgeland expressed agreement and made the motion to grant a three-month extension through March 2013. The motion was passed unanimously.
In other business, after holding a public hearing, the Council passed an ordinance to amend the Hamilton Municipal Code to establish minimum meeting requirements for the Planning Board. They are required to meet state minimum standards of four times per year, at least once in the months of January, April, July and October.
The Council also passed a resolution to amend the Finance Policy to add Tax Compliance Procedures relating to tax-exempt bonds. Special Projects Director Dennis Stranger told the Council that this resolution was necessary to meet new IRS provisions for issuance of bonds and needs to be adopted prior to re-financing the city’s existing water and sewer bonds, a move that will save the city close to $175,000. He said the city’s auditor, attorney and bond counsel had been consulted and all recommended the action. The motion passed unanimously.