Friday, January 27, 2006

Hailey council OKs hillside restrictions

Express Staff Writer

In giving their approval to the creation of a new Hillside Overlay District on Monday, the Hailey City Council put in place sharp restrictions on developing hillside areas within city limits.

The new ordinance, which passed the City Council with its unanimous and enthusiastic support, will heavily restrict developments in areas that are at or above the 15 percent grade.

"I'm excited about having this ordinance on the books," said Rick Davis, council president.

While development in hillside areas at or above the 15 percent grade will be largely prohibited, some exceptions will be allowed.

The intent of the Hillside Overlay District is to direct development to lands outside of the district. Only when no area for development exists outside of the district and all other criteria under the ordinance have been met may a site alteration occur within the district. Even then, however, the development must be located at a site within the district that will minimize its hillside visibility.

City Councilman Don Keirn said directing development away from hillside areas will help preserve the area's charm. "A lot of it's aesthetic," Keirn said. "It's kind of a combination of aesthetics and taking care of the ecology and the landscape."

Unlike many other areas, the Wood River Valley still has much of its hillside areas in a natural condition, he said. "We didn't want to get like some Rocky Mountain areas," Keirn said.

Keirn said he was pleased to see a recent addition to the ordinance requiring a wildlife plan. Under the requirement builders must prove compliance with recommendations from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, or documentation from IDFG stating that the subject property is not in a known wildlife migration or habitat area.

Such documentation will be used during the design review and approval process for proposed developments.

Another recent addition to the ordinance is a requirement that all developments must have a building envelope. Building envelopes regulate how much area a building can cover on individual lots.

Keirn said he doesn't think building envelopes should be limited only to hillside areas, however. "A lot of us think we should have building envelopes citywide," he said.

Keirn said while some might find glass reflecting off hillsides an attractive feature, most in the Wood River Valley appreciate open, natural hillsides more. "It's a heck of a lot more attractive driving around," he said.

Additional requirements under the new Hillside Overlay District ordinance include:

· The requirements of the district apply to all properties regardless of their zoning district designation.

· The maximum building height in the district is 28 feet.

· Builders must supply grading, storm drainage and erosion control plans.

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