Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Hailey townsite overlay plan draws support, criticism

Express Staff Writer

It takes only four words to draw a large crowd of people in Hailey these days: Hailey Townsite Overlay District.

Monday's meeting of the Hailey City Council was no exception, as a number of residents voiced their displeasure with recent amendments to the city's townsite overlay ordinance.

The May 4 amendment—referred to as the James Reed Amendment after the Hailey resident who originally proposed it—reduced the minimum lot size in Hailey's Townsite Overlay District to 4,500 square feet.

Before the amendment the minimum lot size for the city's Limited Residential district and General Residential and Transitional districts were 8,000 and 6,000 square feet, respectively. The three zoning districts all have portions of their areas that fall into the Townsite Overlay district.

Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant told the crowd that while they would be allowed to speak on the topic of the overlay, the council wouldn't be considering any changes to the ordinance right away.

"We don't have an action item in front of us," McBryant said.

Blaine County native and Hailey resident Vicki Smith came to the meeting to speak out against the amendment's promotion of increased density. Smith said density would get in the way of making Hailey a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly town.

"Making the density double in all of Old Hailey is going to complicate that," she said.

Smith said she remembers years when the city received far more snow than it does today. Increased density will make it hard to properly dispose of snow in a large snow year, she said.

"That's a huge concern for me," Smith said.

In several instances during the meeting, words of support from those who came to champion the amendment prompted angry responses. After a particularly vocal outburst, Hailey City Council member Carol Brown admonished the crowd.

Brown asked everyone to respect the right of others to voice their own opinions.

"We've been very respectful of everyone here," she said.

Ketchum architect Dale Bates was one of several area residents who showed up at Monday night's meeting to show support for the Hailey Townsite Overlay District.

Bates said the concern shown by some that increased density will take away from Hailey's charm and reduce property values is unwarranted.

"Density is not opposite of charm," he said. "It's not the opposite of livability."

Bates went on to say that what really makes Old Hailey charming is not its homes or trees as some have said.

"Old Hailey is the people," he said. "It's about knowing the people."

Bates said change is currently happening in Hailey at a rate five times as fast as in the past. Hailey simply can't refuse entry to people wishing to move in, he said.

"Hailey is going to grow," he said.

At the close of Monday's discussions, council members agreed to initiate a process to revisit the Townsite Overlay district issue soon to consider making new changes.

Mayor McBryant said sometime in the near future Hailey may hold a joint town hall-style meeting between the City Council and P&Z to look into possible changes to the ordinance. A date for that meeting has not yet been set, she said.

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