Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Old Cutters annexation faces roadblock

Express Staff Writer

A workshop held to look into the proposed annexation of the approximately 162-acre Old Cutters property northeast of Hailey took on a decidedly adversarial air on Monday.

"It's unfortunate that that's happened," Hailey City Council president Rick Davis observed.

Although the meeting was open to the public, city residents weren't allowed to take part in the tense negotiations.

Hanging like a dark cloud over the 2.5-year-old discussion is the knowledge that the developers may at any point decide to develop their property under Blaine County standards. In that case, the city would receive nothing of benefit from the development, but would still accept much of its impacts.

At one especially confrontational point during the meeting, Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant suggested to the developers that developing in the county may be worth considering. "Maybe that's where you need to go," she said. McBryant said she has to foremost protect Hailey's current residents. "The city isn't seeking this annexation."

While representatives of the city and Old Cutters LLC haggled over a number of various sticking points to the proposed annexation, the primary disagreement between the two sides was undoubtedly the issue of agreeing to a dollar amount for an annexation fee.

At issue was Hailey's request for a $3 million annexation fee, which far exceeds the $2 million fee developers with Old Cutters have said they're willing to pay. The $2 million figure came out of a fee study conducted by California-based Management Partners.

During the meeting, City Council president Rick Davis suggested two possible solutions that could be used to break the stalemate. Davis suggested the city could consider deducting the appraised value of a 10-acre parcel of ground developers have proposed to donate to the city from the $3 million annexation fee. The parcel could be used by the city for a number of uses including as open green space or park space.

Davis said the city could also consider eliminating the annexation fee for the development's community housing because Hailey is already requiring community housing units to be built. Charging developers both an annexation for community housing and requiring them to build community housing units may amount to a double whammy, Davis suggested. "I have a problem with that," he said.

Also at issue is the density being considered for the development. As most recently proposed, the development would include up to 146 housing units of various size and type.

John Campbell, one of two owners of the property, reminded the mayor and city council that a year ago they said they liked the subdivision, but said they wanted to protect the city. "We feel like you had a real hand in shaping it," Campbell said.

Campbell admitted the city can require whatever they want of Old Cutters. Still, he said the city should only charge the $2 million figure the Management Partners study recommended. "You guys want to charge us basically twice as much," he said.

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