Friday, July 28, 2006

Neighbors bash plan for Croy Creek Ranch

Express Staff Writer

Plans to build a 34-lot subdivision in Croy Canyon four miles west of Hailey drew fire from a host of neighboring homeowners during a public hearing before the Blaine County Commission Tuesday.

"I can't believe this made it through P&Z as fast as it did," said Vance Hanawalt, who lives on Cielo Drive near the site of the proposed development. "Some things were totally overlooked. There will be some legal (repercussions) ... I want you to know, Mr. Alexander, that you will be hearing from us."

The upscale development, known as Croy Creek Ranch, would be built across 471 acres owned by Kent and Mary McAtee.

The lead developer is David Alexander.

Another Cielo Drive resident, Brian Emerick, also questioned how the proposal made it past the P&Z, which is the first hurdle an application must clear before reaching the county commissioners, who hold the final authority.

"I'd be curious to know how many people spoke in favor of the project who weren't paid to say so," Emerick said. "I'm really shocked and surprised this made it out of P&Z because the public said, 'Wow, this is a lemon.'"

Thirty of the homes would be built on 1.5-acre lots bunched in four separate clusters near the intersection of Croy Creek Road and Rock Creek Road. The other four lots would be estate-sized, in the range of 30 to 40 acres, and scattered around the clusters.

About 75 percent of the property would remain open space and be planted with native grasses. Sections of Croy Creek would be restored. The developers slashed the initially proposed number of lots from 56 to 34.

Six off-site affordable housing units would be provided in exchange for the development.

"I'm not paid to endorse the project, I'm here to endorse the generosity of Mr. Alexander," said Drew Sanderford, associate director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

Sanderford said Alexander donated "a lot of money" to the Wood River Housing Trust and the affordable housing cause.

"That was very generous of him."

The entire project hinges on the approval of a rezone—the developer wants to change the zoning from A-20 (productive agriculture/one unit of development per 20 acres) to A-10 (unproductive agriculture/one unit of development per 10 acres).

Dick Fosbury, of Galena Engineering, which is representing the applicant, said the land is not productive agriculture, it generally never has been, and a rezone would gel with the county's comprehensive plan.

"To call the land non-productive agriculture is a little bit of a misnomer," said Ted Angle, who also lives on Cielo Drive. "Fosbury took it a little further and said 'It's not prime agriculture.' I didn't realize there was a third class of agriculture."

Judy Harrison, a member of the P&Z, urged the commissioners "to deny the application for rezone."

The developers said the subdivision would actually reduce the amount of water currently used by 60 percent. No more than 80 acres of the property would be irrigated.

Fosbury said measures would be taken to control noxious weeds and reduce the risk of wildfire.

Emerick noted that the majority of the property was under water during this year's spring thaw—not a good situation when development and on-site sewage systems are thrown into the mix.

"We're going to get more of these big winters with (climate change)," Emerick said. "What's going to happen when this whole thing is under water?"

The septic systems, which would require advanced special features due to the high levels of groundwater in the area, have been a significant source of concern for commissioners.

But Commissioner Tom Bowman said his concerns were somewhat alleviated after Bob Erickson, senior environmental health specialist for the South Central Health District, vouched for the special systems.

"After hearing Bob's review I'm more comfortable than I was in the first hearing," Bowman said.

Commissioners delayed any decision until an Aug. 17 hearing.

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