Hailey P&Z approves affordable housing development
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
Following unanimous approval by the Hailey Planning and Zoning
Commission last week, a proposed 192-unit development has passed a major hurdle toward
becoming Haileys largest affordable housing complex.
The commission approved the planned-unit development, slated for a
parcel in the Woodside subdivision, during a meeting on Tuesday of last week. The proposal
must still be approved by the city council.
The decision came after two in-depth presentations by Thomas
Development Co.s six-member team and a grueling deliberation by the planning and
zoning commission over an issue that has some local residents and officials drawing lines
in the dirt and admonishing the developer not to overstep the boundary.
The complex, called Balmoral Apartments, would cover about 15 acres
west of Woodside Boulevard, between Shenandoah Drive and Laurelwood Drive.
The application for the development has two parts. Thomas Development
has requested a permit to build 20 percent more density on the property than would
otherwise be permitted by the city, and to shift that density to about 13 acres of the
The developer has also asked the city to vacate a one-block, unpaved
section of Briarwood Drive, so that a 3.2-acre park can be built adjacent to the existing
The developer would complete the project in two phases. During phase
one, scheduled to begin early next year, the developer would construct the first 10
buildings containing 120 units. Phase two would complete the project, but is not yet
scheduled, according to the developer.
One major consideration for the commission was the addition of a
traffic signal it said the development will require at the intersection of Countryside
Boulevard and state Highway 75. The commission has left it up to the city council to
apportion the signals cost between the city and the developer.
In 1997, a Blaine County Housing Authority assessment identified a need
for more affordable housing in the valley. Authority director Steve Amsbaugh has said that
even though Balmoral Apartments will be financed, constructed and managed independent of
the authoritys guidelines, the project nevertheless will help fulfill that need.
According to city officials, Hailey has about 10 managed apartment
complexes that are larger than 10 units each, and only one of those complexes is not
Fred Free of the Idaho Housing Financing Association (IHFA), a state
agency that directs housing finance programs, said the Balmoral Apartments is unique in
Hailey by being financed through the federal HOME Investment Partnership Program, which
helps provides low-cost financing to developers, thus allowing them to offer lower rents.
Thomas Development says Balmoral rents will run from $310 for a
one-bedroom apartment to $742 for a three-bedroom, and that open-market rents for those
units would be $620 and $860 respectively.
Local residents at the meeting were obviously worried about the
development. They expressed concerns about escalating crime, atrocious aesthetics and
plummeting property values.
"We already have several unattractive, low-income buildings in the
neighborhood," landlord Tawni Baker said. After comparing the developers
architectural designs to that of a college dormitory, she said that her own rental
property was going to have empty units, because these new units "are highly more
Seventy-two-year-old Elizabeth Brogan, who lives next door to the
planned development, explained that her income is less than $16,000 a year and that she is
sympathetic to the housing needs of the poor. "But," she added, "my feeling
is that its too massive. It will have too great of an impact."
In an interview after the meeting, Hailey Police Chief Jack Stoneback
said his department definitely receives more calls to the citys low-income
apartmentsmostly for theft and domestic violence.
These are not new concerns. Through more than 30 years of "The
Great Society" housing programs, and 20 years of the Section 8 housing experiment,
cries of "Not in my back yard!" have reverberated in Americas suburbs and
cities, Michael MaRous, an expert in urban land economics, wrote in a 1996 article for The
"The certainty about low-income housing is that residents have met
government-established income criteria," he added. "Everything else is a
variablethe density, the construction materials and design, the maintenance and
management, and the resultant effect on neighboring residential property values. "
Thomas Development Company owner Thomas Mannschreck is obviously
well-aware of these variables and the concerns they cause.
His team, which included an attorney, a civil engineer, a traffic
engineer, an architect and a representative from the IHFA, seemed well prepared for the
Mannschreck provided favorable police reports from affordable
apartments he has developed in other cities, studies showing that affordable housing in
fact does not affect surrounding property values, and architectural renderings, among
other supporting material.
Several commissioners commended the team on its presentation.
Commissioner Jan Edelstein called it "a pleasure to work with a developer that uses
the P&Z design review process to make the project better, not as an adversarial
The commission voted to approve both the vacation of Briarwood Drive
and the planned-unit development, with the conditions that the developer include specifics
about building management in the plan, that only shielded outdoor lighting be used and
that more variation be designed into the building to improve aesthetics, to name a few.
Final consideration of the plan by the city council has not been