Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Public weighs in on Hailey?s growth

Planner, officials and residents attend ACI workshop

Express Staff Writer

Four months after Hailey's then-Planning Director presented a new Area of City Impact (ACI) plan to the City Council, the Planning and Zoning Commission and general public are still trying to fully grasp the implications and potential impacts it could have on the city.

The commission held a workshop with around a dozen members of the public on Monday, Nov. 5, to discuss the plan with Blaine County Regional Planner Jeff Adams.

"The issue is made more confusing with the growth aspect," said current Hailey Planning Director Beth Robrahn Tuesday. "The simplified essence of the ACI is to define how county development will impact the city and to allow the city to provide input."

While Robrahn said the ACI could certainly be a useful tool for growth management, as it's the only mechanism in Idaho code that allows for this kind of development collaboration between the city and county, it does not necessarily mandate annexation of designated properties.

"The ACI itself is relatively benign," Robrahn said, explaining that because it sets boundaries around land adjacent to the city, it, therefore, includes land that is eligible for annexation. "There is a connection to annexation, but I think that some people are confused that the ACI and annexation are one and the same."

Instead, by determining the ACI, Robrahn said, the city can get an idea of where and how it would like to grow in the future.

At the workshop, Adams noted that the county has lowered its estimate of the amount of housing needed in the region, but that Hailey still needs to plan for where some additional units would go and how that will affect the city.

However, the workshop did not include any discussion of transfer of development rights, a highly debated program for preserving open lands by concentrating density in and around cities. This had been a major sticking point during previous ACI meetings as Adams recommended their inclusion, despite the fact that an ACI ordinance can be created without any reference to TDRs.

Robrahn said she expects the P&Z will spend at least another two meetings deliberating the ACI issue and that the plan most likely won't make it to the City Council until the beginning of next year.

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