floods could thwart
Transfer of development rights
proposed as solution
By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer
Potential avalanches, floods and traffic
impacts on neighbors were subjects of concern raised Monday, Jan. 12, by
citizens addressing the Hailey City Council on an application for annexation of
the Justus Ranch.
The 180-acre parcel is private land in the
county that includes a section of the floodplain along the Big Wood River, south
of Hailey near Colorado Gulch between Broadford Road and the river.
The council did not make any comment on
the application submitted by Jeff Pfaeffle, who made a presentation about a
development that would be called Colorado Gulch Preserve. Review was continued
until a council meeting on Feb. 9. Public comment was also continued, as was
time for the applicant to respond to criticism that was heard.
Pfaeffle and his representatives reviewed
impacts and benefits the project could have for Hailey and for future residents.
Consultants presented a plan they said was sensitive to the dynamics of the
river corridor and the fragile nature of the riparian environment. The project
would help protect the river and groundwater because development on the land, if
annexed, could make use of city infrastructure like sewer lines that would
preclude the risks associated with septic systems used on county land. Public
access to the river would also be provided, but privately maintained.
The project is for several dozen homes on
1- to 5-acre lots. Pfaeffle said it would provide an economic boost to the urban
core, because it would attract people who are looking for a home with a rural
feel that is close to the city.
Consultants made brief presentations
addressing traffic and ecological concerns.
Citizens for Smart Growth representative
Christopher Simms, of Hailey, asked whether the traffic study presented for the
application was sufficient for the scope and impact of the project.
Doug Abromeit, director of the U.S. Forest
Service National Avalanche Center in Ketchum and a Hailey resident, questioned
the applicant’s consideration of the avalanche risk posed by Della Mountain
across the river from the development.
The opinion of Chuck Brockway, the
engineer for the project who presented a flood and avalanche study, was that
from January to March a sizeable avalanche could close the river and cause
limited flooding into a channel to the east of the main river. But, he said,
such an event would present little risk to homeowners.
Abromeit said the avalanche risk in a high
snow year could extend into April and May and could pose a substantially higher
risk because a slide in warmer conditions could be bigger and the river could be
Scott Boettger and Stephan Fraenzle of the
Wood River Land Trust, both Hailey residents, spoke against the project as
presented. But, they would support development on portions of the property at
the highest elevations on the parcel. They advocated a transfer of development
rights component to the project that would help protect the more sensitive areas
and provide more open space for the city.
A transfer of development rights involves
an agreement between a landowner and a city that protects sensitive ecological
areas and a developer’s financial interests. The program gives the developer
opportunity to build with more density in less sensitive areas.
Pfaeffle said he looks to the February
meeting as an opportunity to present more information and further address issues
raised by the community.