A philanthropic consultant determined last week that the Blaine County Recreation District would be unable to raise $9 million dollars to build a public golf course as part of the proposed development of Quigley Canyon, east of Hailey. The determination has caused the district to abandon eight years of largely volunteer negotiations in support the project, which included donation by the ranch owners of 212 acres to the district for the golf course that would double as a Nordic skiing venue in winter.
"The Blaine County Recreation District and the owners of Quigley Canyon Ranch have terminated their agreement to develop a public golf course and clubhouse in Quigley Canyon," states a press release issued July 29 by Dave Keir, executive director of the district.
The statement noted that interviews by the consultant, The Greenwood Co., with 74 prospective donors indicated the district "would not likely be able to raise the $9 million needed."
The property's owners have proposed a plan to annex into Hailey about 860 acres at the head of the Quigley Canyon, including the donated open space for golf and Nordic skiing.
In May 2004, the Recreation District entered into an agreement with the owners of Quigley Canyon Ranch to apply jointly to the city of Hailey for annexation. The plan included an 18-hole public golf course. If the course was built with donated funds, the district planned to manage it. Sufficient water rights to maintain the golf course were also to be donated. The ranch owners would have reserved the remaining land for residential development.
Keith Perry, a former district board president and longtime advocate for the project, said in addition to the recreation amenity the golf course plan seemed like a good vehicle for boosting the district's income stream. Like other taxing districts, its budget is limited by a 3 percent annual increase.
If the parcel is approved for annexation without golf, housing development plans will be considered under the typical Hailey Planning and Zoning and City Council review processes. An annexation agreement will determine zoning specifications. The agreement between the ranch owners and the district stipulated that 2 percent of first-time home sales would have gone to the district.
"There was a lot of support for the program, but philanthropically it didn't stand up," said district board member Tim Hamilton. He added that perceptions of golf as somewhat elitist, an activity that didn't reach enough people, and competition with other public service projects detracted from the Quigley golf plan as a strong candidate for a successful fund-raising campaign, according to Greenwood. Other fund-raising efforts facing the generally deep pockets of the Wood River Valley include the proposed YMCA in Ketchum, the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Sagebrush Arena and a Blaine Manor project in Croy Canyon.
"We were close," Hamilton said, explaining that if golf is still to happen in Quigley another group will have to pick up the torch. "It was dead several times and it could still happen."
The district paid $40,000 to the San Francisco-based Greenwood Co. for the feasibility study that came back negative. After interviewing the 74 prospective donors to gauge interest, the company found that the district could expect to raise about $2 million, a considerable shortfall for the proposed project.
Although Quigley Canyon Ranch owners Fred Judd, his son Clay Judd, and Stoney Burke came back with a counteroffer to match the district's fund-raising projections, the group threw in the towel.
In subsequent negotiations with the ranch owners following results of the Greenwood study, Perry said even then district would have had to raise about $7 million.
As it stands, the Quigley owners plan to continue their bid for Hailey annexation without golf, but Nordic skiing is still in the cards.
"Nordic is still part of the program," Burke said. "(Golf), I don't see it. Our partner was always going to be the Rec District. If they can't do it, I don' t know who can. It is a very disappointing day for a lot of people."
The Quigley annexation application was certified before the current six-month moratorium on subdivision and annexation applications in Hailey, meaning that it can proceed.
"We're going to continue," Burke said. "We're open to whatever the city wants to see there. We're going to sit down and try to make something happen."