Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Hailey leaders support affordable housing law

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council expressed unanimous support Monday for the general idea of mandating that developers create a certain percentage of community housing units in all future housing projects.

Still, the council members reserved final judgment on the draft "inclusionary zoning" community housing ordinance brought before them this week until several items of concern in the ordinance are addressed to their liking.

At a special meeting on Oct. 25, Hailey Planning and Zoning commissioners voted 3-1 to forward the draft ordinance to the City Council with their recommendation to approve it.

In reviewing the draft ordinance for the mayor and City Council members, Hailey Planning Director Kathy Grotto said the inclusionary zoning ordinance is in line with the direction the region is taking.

"There does seem to be this movement in the Wood River Valley," Grotto said.

Monday's meeting drew a large and vocal contingent of city residents who spoke both for and against the ordinance as it is currently written.

Marty Flannes, who works with the Ketchum firm Developing Green, said he generally supports the ordinance. Unlike some of the others in the audience, Flannes made a point of expressing support for density within city limits.

"I do think density belongs in the city," he said. "I'd like the council to keep that in mind."

As currently written, Hailey's inclusionary zoning ordinance includes a 30 percent density bonus, or density offset, to make building community housing units more affordable for developers.

Flannes suggested the 30 percent density bonus may be too high and would provide developers with too much of a financial windfall. "I'm not sure what the rational for that is," he said.

Hailey developer John Campbell said the city should consider more creative ways of addressing the need for affordable community housing.

Rather than creating an ordinance that mandates developers provide community housing units in their projects, Campbell said the city should look at what Telluride, Colo., has done to meet the need.

Telluride's method restricts ownership of community housing units to workers that reside within the school district, Campbell said. By limiting ownership in this way, the unit's value is decreased to the point that everyday people can afford them, he said. "It's guaranteed to be affordable," Campbell said.

Matching affordable community housing units with workers who live nearby has worked well for Telluride, he said. "It's a heck of a lot easier to administrate," Campbell said.

City Council member Don Keirn said developers would still be able to make projects pencil out despite being mandated to provide community housing units. Keirn said many other mountain communities have already required developers to provide such units.

"I think developers in Telluride (Colo.), Jackson Hole (Wyo.) and Aspen (Colo.) seem to be staying out of bankruptcy pretty well," Keirn said.

Near the end of Monday's meeting, the council voted to continue discussing the draft ordinance at the next City Council meeting on Dec. 12.

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