Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hailey hesitates on extending sewer

City looks to increase Spring Canyon Ranch?s fees

Express Staff Writer

Hailey city officials made it clear that the extension of the city's sewer lines into county property comes at a price. However, that price has yet to be determined.

At a City Council meeting on Monday, Dec. 10, the council told attorney Barry Luboviski, representing the Spring Canyon Ranch developers, that Hailey would like to continue negotiating fees for providing sewer service to the proposed 115-home subdivision. The development would be located west of Hailey in Croy Canyon.

At previous meetings in October and November, the council expressed support for the plan, as the initial deal included a donation of both $1 million in cash and 10 acres of property to the neighboring Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation, to assist with the development of the planned eldercare facility.

During October's meeting, Luboviski said the impact fees would amount to $3,500 per unit on top of the connection fee for city residents, which is currently $2,140. As well, each user would pay a 10 percent premium on the monthly wastewater bill.

The developers would bear the entire cost of installing the pipes to connect to the system, as well as a new bridge on Croy Creek Road over the Big Wood River, estimated at a cost of $1 million.

As further incentive to approve the request, this extension would allow the Blaine County School District to easily connect to the sewer system if it moves forward with its plan for an elementary school located on 28 acres just over the Big Wood River in Blaine County.

While council members and Mayor Susan McBryant applauded these efforts as being for the common good, they also paid heed to Hailey residents who said the city was receiving insufficient compensation for what it would be providing.

Peter Lobb, a stalwart figure at City Council meetings, said that all of the developer's proposed improvements would take place in Blaine County while the city would receive "a pittance" in return. Lobb pointed out that if Hailey approves the extension it would be liable for maintenance and repair, which could prove costly to the city.

In addition, Lobb compared the Spring Canyon Ranch to the deal the city made with developer Harry Rinker in 2005 to extend sewer services to Rinker's proposed 70-home Peregrine Ranch subdivision. In return, Rinker settled a $1.35 million lawsuit against the city, turned over the title to 81 acres of land in south Woodside, and paid Hailey $2.65 million for the privilege of hooking into the municipal system.

"It's a good gesture with the Croy Canyon Foundation, but the city isn't getting much," said Geoff Moore, who was appointed to the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission at the beginning of Monday's meeting.

"I've been a proponent of extending the sewer system, but for a profit," Councilman Don Keirn said. "But I think we need more money."

Luboviski expressed disappointment, saying that the developer was looking to finalize the deal with the city in order to submit the subdivision application to the county before the new year.

McBryant continued the public hearing to the Dec. 20 council meeting and said that she will work with Keirn, City Clerk Heather Dawson, and City Attorney Ned Williamson to determine an acceptable fee for the developers.

In other Hailey news:

- The City Council approved a contract for services with the Hailey Chamber of Commerce for $61,000 of local option tax funds per year, although this was pro-rated to $50,924 for 10 months in order to coincide with the city's financial year. The chamber will have to provide monthly reports to justify its expenses and has been set maximum expenditures for the different responsibilities set out in its scope of service.

- The city passed an ordinance to permanently establish the Hailey Arts Commission, as well as setting a requirement that 1.25 percent of the cost of all city projects would have to go towards public art. In the case of a public works bond, city residents would vote on whether or not include this cost.

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