Friday, September 29, 2006

Peregrine Ranch owner eyes 9-hole golf course

Plan hinges on annexation into Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum developer Harry Rinker and The Valley Club are working together on a plan to build a nine-hole golf course and up to 70 homes on Peregrine Ranch, located north of Hailey. Photo by David N. Seelig

Developer Harry Rinker has entered into an agreement with The Valley Club to build a nine-hole golf course on his 160-acre property at Peregrine Ranch, north of Hailey.

However, the success of his plan, which would include the development of up to 70 home sites, hinges on the cooperation of a dozen homeowners located south of Peregrine Ranch.

So far, that cooperation is not forthcoming.

Due to new zoning ordinances attached to the Blaine County 2025 plan, Rinker's development aspirations might only be realized if Peregrine Ranch—part of Blaine County—is annexed into the city of Hailey.

And in order for that to happen, homeowners in the Silver Sage subdivision, sandwiched between Hailey and Peregrine Ranch, would also have to agree to annex into Hailey.

The 2025 plan is an ongoing, major effort to curb future development in the county's rural, environmentally sensitive and wildlife-rich areas. Property on Peregrine Ranch, which supports a large herd of elk in the winter, will likely be downzoned significantly if county commissioners approve a new Wildlife Overlay District attached to the 2025 plan. That is expected to occur in October.

On Sept. 22, Rinker and Nick Purdy, a partner with Rinker on the plan, sent a letter to Silver Sage homeowners outlining their development plans for Peregrine Ranch. Rinker is one of the most successful developers in Blaine County. Purdy, a fourth generation rancher whose family owns a significant amount of land in the county, has been involved with Rinker on at least one other annexation proposal south of Bellevue. Neither could be reached for comment on Thursday.

Included in the letter was a series of benefits, labeled as "carrots," to Silver Sage homeowners if they agree to annex into Hailey.

Those carrots include Valley Club memberships for all Silver Sage residents, partial coverage of Hailey city taxes, and the use of playing fields and storage facilities that would be part of the Peregrine Ranch development.

"At a meeting with your board on (Sept.) 18, I made several requests to meet with your full group of homeowners at a later date for the purpose of exchanging views with you as to any of your objections to annexation, how they could be mitigated, and any of the benefits ("carrots") that we have to offer as enumerated above," the letter states. "My repeated request to meet was strongly opposed by one of your board members."

On Wednesday night, Silver Sage homeowners met to discuss the issue.

"We declined to accept this offer at this time," John Galgano, a director of the Silver Sage homeowners' board, said Thursday. "It just wasn't an attractive offer. There are so many things going on right now with Harry Rinker and the city of Hailey and Peregrine. We just need to see what happens with all that."

Galgano was referring to a pending lawsuit filed by several local residents against Rinker and the city of Hailey.

The lawsuit is based on a complex deal made between the city of Hailey and Rinker to provide sewer services to Peregrine Ranch. The deal was worked on in a closed-door executive session in February 2005.

"They violated Idaho open meeting laws. That's not something they can do in executive session," said Rod Kegley, a local developer who owns land adjacent to Rinker's property and is a party in the lawsuit. Kegley asserts that the contract of the deal is also illegal.

The case is currently under the advisement of 5th Judicial District Magistrate Judge R. Ted Israel, with a decision expected within the next couple of weeks.

Some adjacent property owners have also noted that Hailey Mayor Susan McBryant is a property manger for some of Rinker's developments, most notably Golden Eagle Ranch.

Review of a proposed annexation would eventually run through the Hailey City Council and McBryant.

McBryant said there is no conflict of interest.

"I don't work for Mr. Rinker. I work for a board of directors of a homeowners' association," McBryant said. "I work for property he developed, but there is no connection there."

Kegley claims he was invited to annex his property into Hailey in the past, but he denied the offer because he feels significant development north of the city would promote sprawl.

"The city of Hailey should expand east and west, not north and south," he said.

Kegley said if he had annexed his property into Hailey, "the end result would have been millions more in my pocket. But I disagree with the philosophy of sprawling up the highway."

Supposedly, so does the city of Hailey, which has adopted a map identifying that future growth outside of current Hailey city limits should occur to the west and east, not north and south.

If Peregrine was annexed into Hailey, "that would be an expansion that has not been projected on that map," McBryant said.

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