Wednesday, November 17, 2004

School annexation move forward

Hailey P&Z, school district reach accord

Express Staff Writer

With the perseverance of planning consultant John Gaeddert, the Blaine County School District has turned the corner on making progress toward construction of a new elementary school in Woodside.

Nearly a year after denying approval, the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission, Monday, reversed a 2003 decision and granted approval for annexation of property for a new elementary school in Woodside.

All annexation applications to the city of Hailey were put on hold in August. The goal was to complete the Growth Management and Land Use sections of the Hailey Comprehensive Plan, something the commission asked to see ironed out before it could feel comfortable moving ahead with annexations applications, said Hailey City Planner Diane Shay.

However, the delay has put a pinch on school district construction plans. Superintendent Jim Lewis said building costs for the project have increased some $500,000 since the district's annexation was denied last year.

Also, Gaeddert and the school board submitted a letter that said although the city is not responsible for the impacts of not having a school built, the city must proceed with consideration of the application under Idaho statutes, which give schools precedence to move forward.

The city council agreed and put the application back in the commission's court.

Associated applications for design review and a text amendment addressing parking at the proposed school were not addressed before Monday's meeting was adjourned. Review of the applications is scheduled for Nov. 29.

The main issue a year ago was a debate between the commission and the school district about sidewalks and access to the project proposed for property located east of the intersection of Berry Creek and Cherry Creek drives and Woodside Boulevard.

After last year's denial the city and school district had a workshop to iron out sidewalk needs associated with the proposed school project.

Commissioner John Seiller, a strong critic of the school district's apparent reluctance to take on responsibility for sidewalks a year ago, returned this year with complements for the district's resolve to work out amenable solutions to the community's need for safe routes to school.

At the proposed entrance to the school the district now plans to include a divided entrance to the proposed campus at a new four-way intersection. The plan would include nearly 400 feet of sidewalk leading to the entryway. The actual design is yet to be determined, but for the purposes of annexation the commission recommended divided concrete sidewalks.

Gaeddert, said the district would work with the city to find the best possible design.

"It has always been the intent for the school (district) to improve this intersection," he said.

In addition to the discussion of the entry and sidewalks, the commission reviewed an emergency access road to be accessed from the north of the property through a piece of vacant Hailey city property adjacent to Berry Creek Drive, referred to as the future site of Echo Hill Park.

Neighbors voiced concern that the proposed road would be directly adjacent to backyards shrinking privacy. The commission recommended that the emergency access road, to be made of compacted gravel, be pushed away from neighbors' yards. The commission also recommended that the road be restricted to emergency access.

The road and the planned park cut through a red avalanche zone. The school project has been planned to avoid avalanche risk areas.

Woodside resident Chad Blincoe, who has been following the process, was adamant that concerns about the project are ironed out before annexation approval is granted.

Seiller, asked as a condition of approval, that if the application is remanded to the commission after city council consideration for any reason, that the application be returned with clear directions about what the council still needs to see.

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