For the week of February 3, 1999  thru February 9, 1999  

Shelter for battered women meets with approval

Hailey P&Z OKs conditional-use permit


By HANS IBOLD
Express Staff Writer

Advocates director Tricia Swartling explains a rendering of the home for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault proposed for construction in a Hailey neighborhood. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

A home for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault could be available in Hailey by the end of the year.

Before a large and primarily supportive crowd last week, the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission approved a conditional-use permit for the West Croy Street home.

The home is the brainchild of the Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence, a Hailey-based nonprofit organization that has been providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Wood River Valley since 1991.

The proposed building, which will cost an estimated $600,000 to build and $225,000 to run annually, will have five bedrooms used by clients, offices, a meeting space for staff and board members and an apartment for an on-site resident. A fenced-in yard in the rear and space for a carport are included in the plans. A stucco-like, cement fiber board would be a primary building material.

"We hope to break ground in April," said Advocates director Tricia Swartling in an interview. Construction is expected take six to nine months, she said.

Funding sources include proceeds from the Sun Valley Celebrity and Local Heroes Cookbook, a grant from the DuPont Foundation, donations from several private individuals and Blaine County. The Advocates has raised about $600,000 to date and is still searching for grant money.

The Advocates was required to obtain a conditional-use permit for the facility because it is in a public use in a general residential zone. The conditional-use permit application states that the shelter must be "designed, constructed, operated, and maintained to be harmonious and appropriate in appearance with the existing or intended character of the general vicinity."

At a Jan. 26 P&Z meeting, the Advocates presented what commission chairman Jonathan Stokes said was "probably the best-prepared application that I’ve seen."

In addition, the Advocates handed the P&Z a stack of letters of support, which Stokes also said was unprecedented.

"I think we got more comment on this one than I’ve seen so far, in terms of written comment," he said.

One of those letters of support came from the Blaine County Commissioners and was signed by Commissioners Mary Ann Mix, Dennis Wright and Len Harlig.

"We encourage you to approve this application for the good of the community," the letter reads, "but especially for the city of Hailey."

The county commissioners also pledged in the letter a "substantial financial commitment on behalf of the entire community to purchase the property that will house the shelter."

At the meeting, Mix added that she was "proud to be a resident of a city that could welcome this type of facility with open arms."

Perhaps the most compelling part of the hearing came during a presentation by Swartling.

Swartling told the P&Z that the Advocates serves about 300 women and children each year and receives about 16 phone calls each day for victim assistance.

And the need for that assistance is on the rise. Over the past three years, Swartling said, she has seen a 10- to 25-percent annual increase in the use of services provided by the Advocates.

Services range from a one-time phone contact—provided by 20 hot-line volunteers--to long-term advocacy and care.

"Women and children experiencing domestic violence in our community have really no place to go," Swartling said. "We can only offer them one or two nights in a hotel. That really doesn’t give them a chance to transition to a new life on their own."

Another problem with the current lack of a shelter, Swartling said, is that financially insecure victims are sometimes forced to return to their abusers, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.

While no one at the meeting denied the need for a home, several Croy Street residents doubted the home could be harmonious with their neighborhood.

One resident, who said she grew up on Croy Street, expressed concern about losing the "family feeling" in the neighborhood.

"We’re really tight there," she said.

Another Croy Street resident added, "I think it might be a little dense for a single family neighborhood."

The Advocates had, however, taken several measures to appease Croy Street residents. Architect Dale Bates said he had studied adjacent houses and incorporated their styles into his design.

In an introduction, Advocates vice president and attorney Debra Kronenberg said it was the group’s goal to be a good neighbor in the community.

Kronenberg and Bates addressed those "good neighbor" issues, such as the look of the building, traffic, lighting and noise impacts, parking, snow storage and drainage.

Kronenberg also made the following promises: Lighting will be abated with downward angles similar to most residential houses; curfews will keep nightly traffic to a minimum; landscaping will include a diversity of tree species; and noise will be limited to some additional traffic during the day and children at play in the backyard.

Jerry Hayward, current owner of the property, reminded concerned Croy Street residents that he could easily build a four-plex on the property, which would be from setback to setback and would have a much bigger impact on the neighborhood.

"I think that [the home] is the best thing that could happen to this property," Hayward said.

 

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