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LETTING ALPINE BUILD CONDOS GAINING FAVOR

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A landowner here is surveying residents to test the mood regarding the construction of condominiums in the southeast edge of town. So far, said Lynn Mecham, the response has been favorable. He got the idea from city officials.

"A lot of people my age would want to (retire and) move here, but they don't want large lots," said Mecham, who is nearing retirement age. "They're too hard to take care of."Condominiums would require planned developments with lots of open space to stay within city ordinances. That's the only way condo developers could build in the one-acre zoning that surrounds Alpine.

The large-lot zoning was placed around the perimeter of Alpine five years ago to control growth. But it's becoming more of an issue as landowners want the flexibility to develop their land. One-acre lots are too large to manage efficiently, residents say. Jannicke Brewer, city Planning Commission chairwoman, said down-zoning requests have increased steadily the past two months.

Yet city officials have consistently denied the smaller lots unless the landowner can prove a compelling reason. So far, no one on the city's outskirts has been able to do that to the city's satisfaction.

Brewer said the steady stream of smaller-lot requests is just an effort by landowners to "try it, hoping the City Council will let them do it."

An unusual spurt of four requests for half-acre zoning came before the council during a February meeting. Three were turned down flat, but a fourth was set for hearing on March 12. That was for property owned by Conrad and Diane Teichert at 757 Alpine Highway. The Planning Commission had earlier turned down the Teicherts' request.

The Teicherts say they have no plans to develop the property now, they just want the freedom to use their land more efficiently. One-acre lots tend to go to weeds, said Diane Teichert. She said the lots across the street from her home are half acre and tend to be better used.

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission is "revisiting" the city's general plan, which hasn't been revised in five years, another reason why city officials are reluctant to allow any zone changes now. Brewer said that perhaps the city should give landowners more options.

Mecham said he was in no hurry to split his land on 800 South, but now he's thinking that condominiums would be a better use of his five acres, which is possible under one-acre zoning with city approval of a planned residential development, Brewer said.

Brewer recognizes that to many lot owners and developers the compelling reason to downzone is economic - smaller lots bring more money per acre than larger lots. But economics, she said, are not part of land use planning.