Flooding an afternoon City Council meeting Thursday, Jan. 6 in Hailey City Hall, the public tuned into council response to a request by housing developer Harry Rinker for extension of city sewer service to the Peregrine Ranch property north of city limits.
With the public pressing in, council members Martha Burke, Don Keirn and Carol Brown agreed that they would not be interested in providing service at the housing density Rinker and his project manager Nick Purdy suggested. Rinker has plans to build 380 homes on the land located in the county north of the city between Buttercup Road and state Highway 75. To achieve the density of 2.5 lots per acre, or R.4, Rinker must go before the county with a sewage treatment plan in place. Rinker has the option of building one unit per acre with septic systems in place or he could install a private sewer system. In any case, the goal is to bring more inventory into the housing market than is currently permitted.
"We are applying for a rezone," Purdy said. Negotiations are still in the works with neighbors of the property who could also be tied into an extension from Hailey or a private sewer system. Purdy said an application for a rezone could be submitted to the county in February. "We're still meeting with a lot of people to come up with a final plan."
Asking Hailey for extension of sewer services was part of Rinker and Purdy's negotiations. Hailey city council members made trips to the Peregrine Ranch to inspect the property in two separate groups, said Council President Rick Davis, who presided over Thursday's meeting. Mayor Susan McBryant recused herself since Rinker is one of her property management clients.
Asking to pay the city for services before the county has approved a rezone may be putting the cart before the horse, said Hailey City Councilwoman Martha Burke. In any case Burke said she was against the proposed density and other impacts of the project in addition to sewage needs, including traffic and demand for other city services.
"I don't want 380 units when we're done," Burke said. "It's so simple. We can't handle it."
The council response to Rinker's request will not permit him to build any more density than is already allowed in the county, but the council was not adverse to accepting Rinker's offer to pay for extension of service at the current density of one unit per acre.
The goal of extending services has been to protect city wellheads, Davis said, "That's why we did the research. The reason the project really caught our attention is that it would protect our well heads. We wanted staff to research what septic danger the project might bring. It all boiled down to groundwater protection, wellhead protection."
The council held the workshop Thursday to hear from Public Works Manager Ray Hyde who said there would be no threat with the new septic systems available and the type of private sewer system Rinker could install that would meet DEQ and EPA standards.
The information deflated an argument made by Ketchum attorney Barry Luboviski, who felt a veiled threat underlies the offer to pay for extension of sewer services in exchange for support of a density increase.
The council was not unequivocal in its opposition to increased density.
"What I heard from the council, if you listened real close, is that the council does not want to get into the county business," Purdy said. "They want the (County Commission) to tell them what the density is and then look at the request."
"Generally speaking, I am not opposed to extending (sewer services) if we do it in such a way that Hailey is not impacted," Brown said. "If we extend our services, it's got to be seamless."
Brown suggested that the council have a joint meeting with the county to sort out the matter.
Hailey-based attorney Martin Flannes, who wrote a feasibility study of the legal and regulatory issues relating to the establishment of an inspection, maintenance, and enforcement program for onsite wastewater treatment systems for the county, said any treatment system at Peregrine Ranch would be held to a higher standard of scrutiny by the EPA.