Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Controversial Hailey subdivision remains emotional issue

Application tabled pending further research

Express Staff Writer

For more than three years, developer John Bulotti has battled to subdivide a lot in southwest Hailey. At every step, both neighborhood residents and the city have battled back.

While most subdivisions in this quickly developing community garner almost no notice, this seemingly commonplace event has born witness to inflamed emotions and shows no signs of quietly abating.

The original Bulotti application called for the quartering of a single lot, located at 911 Silverstar Drive in the Birdwood Subdivision, between Cedar Street and Della Vista Drive. This area is in the Della View floodplain and close to the Big Wood River.

After being rejected twice by both the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council, and wrangling legally with Hailey in court, Bulotti brought a revised application before the council Monday, April 23.

As a result of court-ordered mediation, the developer is now seeking to cut his lot into two parcels, rather than four, but public opposition remains strong as ever.

The issue that differentiates this application from the many others that pass before the council on a regular basis is the fact that around 80 percent of the property is in a FEMA-designated floodplain.

Last spring, residents in this area experienced severe flooding and contest that if more houses are erected, impacts of future floods will likely be much worse.

Bulotti commissioned Brockway Engineering to research and, if possible, delineate which sections of the property are above the floodplain and suitable for construction. After preliminary investigation, Charles Brockway said he thought Bulotti would be able to build without impacting flood conveyance or water height.

Neighbors felt differently, however, as Della Vista Drive resident Ellie Ellis was quick to point out. Ellis brought a number of pictures to the meeting so that the council could get an accurate idea of the extent of last year's flooding.

"I don't see how the council can approve this in good conscience," Ellis said.

A number of her neighbors vocally supported Ellis, but the council remained unsold on the project's merits either way.

Council members Martha Burke and Don Keirn, the only voting members as both Carol Brown and Rick Davis recused, agreed they would need more information, especially if it's possible to build above the base point elevation, before they could make an informed decision.

Noting the current stalemate, Mayor Susan McBryant tabled the application until a complete report from a hydrologist is received.

"It's a messy, messy thing, and you can see we're struggling with it," McBryant said.

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