The debate over whether a need for moderately priced housing should foster greater density in Wood River Valley cities will likely take center stage in Hailey this spring.
A development group from Tennessee presented to the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission this week a proposal to develop up to 421 housing units on 22 acres of vacant land in the Woodside subdivision, east of Friedman Memorial Airport.
The project, called Sweetwater, would far and away be the biggest housing development ever built in Hailey.
In a lengthy presentation Monday, April 3, representatives of the 474 Club LLC, of Memphis, Tenn., put forth their vision for a high-profile site located between state Highway 75 on the west and Woodside Boulevard to the east. The development would straddle both sides of Countryside Boulevard.
Because the meeting was held primarily as a preliminary informational session, the public was not invited to comment on the proposal. Public comment would routinely be invited later in the review process.
As proposed Monday, the Sweetwater project would be composed primarily of townhouse and condominium housing units, but would also include live-and-work housing units in which homeowners could operate small businesses below their upstairs living quarters.
Developers with the 474 Club said the project was designed to be an affordable neighborhood for the area's work force. The development would include a significant number of entry-level priced housing units, they said.
Architects involved in designing the project have attempted to make the development fit into its surroundings, both in relationship to adjacent neighborhoods and the area's natural landscape, said lead architect Catherine Benotto, of Weber and Thompson Architects of Seattle.
"It doesn't feel like a cookie-cutter plan," Benotto said.
Michael Doty, of Ketchum-based Michael Doty Associates, has also been hired to bring a local architect's perspective to the designing of the project.
One important for designers, they said, was ensuring that the large development is pedestrian friendly. The design of the project includes a number of small green spaces in addition to a large 1.6-acre community park at the center. The park would be open to the public and would have a "park amenity building" to include space for services such as a children's computer room, a fitness facility and community mailboxes.
Developers propose to link the project's green spaces with a system of pedestrian trails.
In keeping with the pedestrian-friendly theme, housing units have been designed to have porches fronting the main streetscapes, with garage doors being relegated to the back alleys.
"When you look down the street you just see front porches," Benotto said.
Architects also took into account the Wood River Valley's agrarian and mining past when they designed the project's housing units, Benotto said.
Taken as a whole, all of the development's various design aspects give the Sweetwater project a strong connection to its surroundings, Benotto said.
"There's a strong sense of place," she said.
In general, P&Z commissioners seemed pleased with the proposal.
"I like the variation and the streetscape," Commissioner Stefanie Marvel said.
Like the other commissioners, however, Marvel commented that the proposed 1.6-acre park appears more like a private park for the development's residents and not a public park in the way developers have promoted it. Residents outside the development may not feel comfortable coming into the area and using the park, she said.
"I don't see that being considered a public park," Marvel said.
Commissioner Trent Jones said the significant density of the proposed project is softened by a number of favorable design aspects and the development's direct access to Highway 75.
Both the developers and commissioners agreed that the vehicle traffic added by the development may necessitate a new traffic light where Countryside Boulevard meets Highway 75.
Representatives with the 474 Club said the Sweetwater project would be developed in four separate construction phases with the first phase comprising primarily townhouses along Countryside Boulevard.
Barring any unforeseen holdups, developers hope to begin construction on the project as soon as this fall. Before that can take place, however, the project will have to clear a number of hurdles, including formal design review and the completion of a community housing plan for the development.
Commissioners will discuss the proposed Sweetwater project again at their May 1 meeting.