Friday, September 7, 2007

Hailey debates open-space preservation

Transfer of development rights considered

Express Staff Writer

How can Hailey officials preserve open space surrounding the city without harming its residents?

That was the question the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission struggled with at its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 4, after listening to Blaine County Regional Planner Jeff Adams explain how a transfer of development rights (TDR) program could be incorporated into Hailey's proposed area of city impact ordinance.

In the TDR system, property owners would get units of development credit for "sending areas," where sensitive property remains undeveloped. Developers would buy those rights and use them in "receiving areas," where the city has determined it prefers density.

However, commission members voiced a number of concerns, including who will bear the cost of purchasing development rights from the sending areas.

Stefanie Marvel, chairwoman of the commission, said Hailey's infrastructure could suffer if developers are required to buy a TDR, as the money would go to property owners in sending areas rather than to the city in the form of annexation fees.

In addition, Commissioner Owen Scanlon asked if requiring TDRs would place such a financial burden on potential developers that they would find it cost-prohibitive to annex into the city.

Adams countered by saying that by annexing into the city, developers can greatly increase the value of their property, as the density can change from one unit per five acres in the county to over one unit per acre in the city.

The debate came as part of a discussion on the creation of an area of city impact ordinance. If adopted, the ordinance would determine areas the city would consider for annexation.

City Planning Director Beth Robrahn said the area of city impact would be split into four zones, each with special characteristics that the city would strive to preserve through the planned-unit development process when considering future development.

The "Near Proximity Zone" would include property close to the current city boundary, such as Quigley Canyon and land directly south of the airport. The ordinance would ensure that consideration of annexation applications would include analysis of wildlife corridors, access to recreation areas and the mitigation of traffic impacts on existing neighborhoods.

The "Heritage Zone" would preserve the land between Hailey and Bellevue, retaining open space that divides the two cities.

For the "West Zone," located in Croy Canyon, important issues would be access over the Big Wood River and respecting the floodplain.

The "Advisory Zone" would be made up of the hillside areas around Hailey and would have a low priority for annexation, as these areas cannot be developed, Robrahn said.

Adams said that once Hailey drafted an area of city impact ordinance, it would go before the county commissioners, who would consider it as part of an agreement between the city and county.

While an Area of City Impact ordinance can be created without any reference to TDRs, Adams recommended their inclusion on the grounds that they allow the city to save open land from development without buying conservation easements.

Commission members asked Robrahn and Adams to provide examples of TDR systems that have been implemented elsewhere in the country, as to date no TDRs have been sold in Blaine County. Robrahn said she will present that information to the commission at its Oct. 1 meeting.

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