Wednesday, March 21, 2007

P&Z rejects 10.68-acre Life Church annexation

Express Staff Writer

Saying development plans for the property are too vague, Hailey Planning and Zoning commissioners rejected a proposal to annex 10.68 acres in a 3-1 vote on Monday.

The L-shaped property at issue is located at the northwest corner of McKercher Boulevard and Main Street.

Under the application submitted to the city by the Life Church of Hailey, a new church with a roughly 15,000-square-foot footprint is proposed for a portion of the property. The new church would replace the Life Church's existing facility at 406 North Main Street in Hailey.

The P&Z's rejection of the application was the culmination of an emotional evening at the Hailey City Hall.

Prior to the commission's vote, Michael Hendricks, the pastor of The Life Church of Hailey, expressed bewilderment with the commission's claim that their application was too vague.

In addition to the small portion of the property set aside for the church building, the church's application proposes to create a public park at the rear of the property and would place three former U.S. Forest Service buildings on the property for church use, Hendricks noted.

Under the latter proposal, the Forest Service buildings would be moved from another property farther south in Hailey that is being redeveloped. The owner of that property recently approached the Life Church and offered them the buildings free of charge.

The annexation application also specifies where the new church building would be located, Hendricks noted.

"What more do you want?"

Still, Hendrick's appeal wasn't enough to sway the majority of the P&Z.

For the three commissioners who voted against the application, not knowing how the portion of the property adjacent to Marketron International on Empty Saddle Trail would develop was worrisome. The commissioners also questioned a request for Transitional zoning on the property.

Addressing a claim that keeping the property in the county would mean a septic system would need to be built in the environmentally sensitive area, the P&Z said that alone wasn't a reason to annex.

Simply put, the applicants haven't proven why the annexation is a good move for the city, Commissioner Elizabeth Zellers said.

"In a nutshell, I'm opposed," Zellers said.

Commissioner Nancy Linscott, the lone supporter of the application on the P&Z, said agreeing to the annexation would give the city "control of this property."

The P&Z's vote isn't the church's last hope on the matter, however. Because the P&Z's vote is only a recommendation, the final say on the application will rest with the Hailey City Council.

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