Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Hailey suspends annexation requests

Growth and annexation guidelines to be set

Express Staff Writer

Hailey leaders are struggling to get a handle on a continual string of development requests that likely will escalate growth of Blaine County?s already bur-geoning population center.

To gain breathing room while it comes up with a new game plan, the City Council last week placed on hold all annexation applications. The time gained will be used to revise the growth section of the Hailey Comprehensive Plan and complete a procedural ordinance for evaluating annexation applications.

The council arrived at the decision to cease putting annexation applications on city council agendas after Planning and Zoning Commissioner Pat Cooley met with Mayor Susan McBryant to share the commission?s frustration with not having a formal annexation process to follow.

McBryant had advised the council that the city needed to find a solution to the ?ping pong? effect of the current review process, which has been difficult for developers to navigate. The decision will delay applications like the one from the Blaine County School District, which was scheduled for further plan-ning and zoning review of a proposed elementary school project in Woodside. That meeting had been scheduled for Monday, Sept. 20.

At a special meeting following the council decision, the commission opened up for public discussion a draft of the growth section in the comprehensive plan. Representatives of annexation applications pending or in the works voiced some consternation that the review process has been stopped and en-couraged the city to adopt an ordinance as soon as possible.

Representing Quigley Canyon developers at the meeting, Terry Hogue said his clients have been preparing an annexation plan since 2001. He also said his clients have thousands of dollars in studies that could be made available to the city as it goes forward in trying to establish some of its growth parameters.

A draft of the growth section of the comprehensive plan and the procedural ordinance are almost finished, said Hailey City Planner Diane Shay. ?We?re really reaching out to the community and want those sections to be completed.?

Beginning in July, the planning department held three meetings with about 60 members of the public to get their ideas about what the growth section should include.

Participants included neighbors of proposed annexations, realtors, developers, and leaders of institutions like the Blaine County School District and Blaine Manor. The comments were incorporated into the draft of the comprehensive plan?s growth section. Some of those comments advocated taking a firm stand on requiring community housing.

Other concerns included how or whether the city should take a firm stand on what it would like to see as the future of the property at Friedman Memorial Airport, should the airport move elsewhere.

Views about how future growth should be managed and guided by the yet unfinished section of the plan varied, but one factor that seems to be universal is that members of the community and city government are interested in controlling growth by encouraging density and avoiding sprawl.

Allison Kennedy with the Wood River Land Trust said she would like to see the city consider a transfer of development rights ordinance as a way to guide density and growth. Marty Flannes, a founder of Developing Green, agreed, adding that as officials review how much vacant land there is in the city, he would like the city to be clear about what it wants to see for density.

The question spurred a discussion about how the city might come up with such a cap and whether determining a specific percentage before an annexation is considered is appropriate.

Further, Flannes recommended that the city categorize areas of impact and clarify what types of development the city would like to see where.

To that end, the Hailey Planning Department has been working with Hailey Parks and Lands volunteer Becki Keefer, who has developed a series of four maps, drafts that can be used for defining the geography and use of land in and around Hailey city limits.

Until the planning tool is adopted the maps are intended to help inform the public and guide the city?s efforts to define a growth management plan, said Hailey Planning Director Kathy Grotto.

Ideas offered about how to establish growth management ranged from leaving growth considerations to the creative juices of the free market, to using the finite resource of water as a limiting factor. In other words: Can an evaluation of Hailey?s capacity to provide adequate water be used as a baseline for de-signing a growth plan?

The commission will continue the public discussion of how the city should govern annexation applications at the next P&Z Commission meeting Monday, Sept. 20.

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