Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Elementary school in Woodside OKd

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council approved an annexation application by the Blaine County School District for construction of a new elementary school in Woodside. The unanimous decision Monday was accompanied by a condition that the city attorney review the fine print of the annexation agreement associated with the nearly 20-acre project adjacent to the Woodside subdivision and Water Gulch Road.

The plan for the property is to build a 54,000-square foot building, which will accommodate 450 students. The final rendition of the plan shows sidewalks, an emergency access route and conceptual plans for deed restricted housing. The school district intends to submit a planned unit development application for the residential housing planned for the property at a later date.

The Hailey City Council first held a public hearing to review the annexation application in September 2003. The city council and the planning and zoning commission wrestled with the plan for the project for nearly a year before the council placed all annexation applications on hold in August. On November 15, the planning and zoning commission referred the application to the council for consideration.

One of the main issues related to the project has been the design of the main intersection and sidewalks. The entrance to the campus will have a double access and an emergency access road with turnouts every 500 feet. Whether sidewalks are separated or attached will be addressed in the final annexation agreement. The property will be zoned 15.5 acres as general residential and 4.2 acres as recreational green belt. There is an avalanche zone on the property but the design of the project has steered clear of the problem area.

"None of the construction or improvements are in the avalanche zone," said John Gaeddert of the Corporation for Land Planning and Engineering, the lead representative on the project.

Gaeddert also said the emergency access road would largely use the existing dirt road behind the homes to the north of the property. In response to another question he added that the school district would also grade a portion of the "Toe of the Hill Trail" that passes east of hillside properties south of the Wood River High School.

A neighboring property with a dirt road access adjacent to the planned entrance to the campus will maintain a separate access and will not share the school entrance as once proposed.

Rand Peebles, school district attorney, offered the city ownership of one of the units in the associated PUD that is still being proposed in exchange for a city commitment to build 1,000 feet of concrete sidewalk associated with the PUD. The council made no decision for or against the offer of community housing, but Mayor Susan McBryant said despite the generous offer, the city does not have money for sidewalks.

As the school project gained approval, school district representatives seemed to give a collective sigh of relief, as they have been struggling with budgets and ever increasing construction costs.

"Time is of the essence," said School Superintendent Jim Lewis. "We want backhoes in the ground when the snow melts."

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