Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sweetwater project gets final approval

Deal sets final work on River Street in motion

Express Staff Writer

With the blessing of the Hailey City Council in hand and an official green light to proceed with construction, the massive 421-unit Sweetwater project has finally moved from concept to reality, at least on paper.

Located on approximately 20 acres of land east of Highway 75 and west of Woodside Boulevard in southern Hailey, the site of the project is just bare ground punctuated by large holes dug by heavy machinery and intermittent piles of dirt and rock.

In time, all this will likely change. Where now there is just undulating bare ground, a large planned development will soon begin to rise once developers secure the necessary building permits in the next few weeks.

As part of their official endorsement for the project Monday, City Council members approved a number of applications during the public meeting, including a planned unit development (PUD) application and agreement, preliminary subdivision delineation—called a large block plat—and a floodplain development permit.

Despite the project's significance for citizens in the city of Hailey, no one in the crowd Monday elected to comment on the proposal before the City Council's final vote.

The same thing also happened at a previous meeting on July 31, Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant noted with surprise on Monday.

"Which is actually quite remarkable," she said.

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission first viewed conceptual plans for the Sweetwater project on April 3. Through three additional public meetings, commissioners considered various aspects of the project and developers' planned unit development request.

At a meeting Aug. 7, P&Z commissioners voted to approve the design review for a majority of the project's various building types.

The P&Z's approval basically covered the strictly residential components of the project. The approval covers the project's townhomes, condominiums and one- and two-unit buildings, called carriage houses.

Still needing design review approval from the P&Z are a series of live-work buildings as well as a single mixed-use structure. The P&Z will consider design review approval for these structures sometime in October.

The Sweetwater project is the largest housing development ever proposed in the city of Hailey. Developers of the project envision its mix of various housing types will be affordable to the Wood River Valley's working families. Only a small percentage of the total, however, will be deed-restricted affordable housing.

The project will straddle both sides of Countryside Boulevard, which when completed will be a heavily tree-lined and landscaped thoroughfare bisecting the project.

Also included in the project will be a 1.6-acre public park complete with a 5,200-square-foot park amenity building. A system of pedestrian trails will wind throughout the community, connecting residents to the park and a single mixed-use retail and residential building.

Monday's approval also put into motion a key component of the overall Sweetwater project deal. In exchange for gaining ownership of several key parcels located within the project that were owned by the city, developers of the project purchased an important piece of property in northern Hailey the city has eyed for the completion of River Street.

With the deal complete, the city of Hailey now owns the River Street parcel. Work to complete River Street may be finished by as early as late September, Hailey City Engineer Tom Hellen said Monday.

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