The Blaine County Recreation District ignored its
obligation to taxpayers last week when it signed an agreement to construct a public golf
course on property to be donated by developers in Quigley Canyon east of Hailey.
The agreementwhich is basically an agreement of intent as opposed
to a final binding agreementemerged full-blown from closed-door negotiations between
district representatives and the developers. It was inked before anyone in the public had
a chance to say anything about it.
The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors because it involved
land acquisition. Such closed-door negotiations are legal in Idaho when public agencies
are working on acquiring property.
However, Idaho law also says the agreements must be finalized in
The agreement says the recreation district will construct an 18-hole
golf course, a pitch-and-putt course, a clubhouse, a maintenance building, employee
housing and a bike path. It says the district will operate a fishing program for kids on a
lake at the site and coordinate winter Nordic skiing on the course. The agreement says the
rec district will do all of thisif it can find the $6 million necessary to do so.
The agreement is also contingent upon annexation and approval of the
development by the city of Hailey.
District administrator Mary Austin Crofts says the districts
obligation to the public was met when the agreement was inked in an open scheduled meeting
of the recreation district board of directors.
The agreement first was released to the public at the same meeting in
which it was signed. The district did not hold a public hearing on the agreement. The
recreation districts agenda for the meeting said only that the terms of the Quigley
Canyon Ranch agreement would be discussed. It did not say the districts board would
Despite the fact that the concept for the private development and
public golf course has been floating around for a couple of years, despite the fact that
the district consulted residents near the site about the concept, signing the agreement
occurred much too fast. No one outside of the districts board of directors, an
advisory committee that is keen on getting a public golf course built, and the developers
got to review the agreement before the meeting.
The time for signing an agreement of this magnitude between a public
agency and a private party is after public reviewnot before. The district should
revoke the agreement, hold a proper public hearing and incorporate public concerns in any
agreement it chooses to sign.
Doing less will leave the project under a cloudnot a good thing
if taxpayers are to be asked to spend $6 million.