Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hailey man seeking to end development impact fees

City budget affected by slowdown in building applications


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Hailey blacksmith Bob Wiederrick is taking on Hailey City Hall. At a time when the city is facing a 2009 budget shortfall of nearly $500,000, he is circulating two petitions that could ultimately take another bite out of city coffers.

Wiederrick is taking issue with the city's development impact fees, implemented by the city last summer and which he says are going to cost him dearly to build on a piece of commercial property in South Woodside's light-industrial zone.

"I suppose the city gave minimum notice on implementing this fee, but the fact is that most people down here are too busy working to pay much attention to these notices," Wiederrick said.

Wiederrick claims the development impact fees charged by the city are a "disguised tax," which has raised the cost to build a metal-working shop on land he owns at 4051 Glenbrook Drive from $16,000 to $24,000.

He also has circulated a petition to repeal the city's annual business license fee, which he says has risen from $25 to $50 since he began paying them.

"I've been in business here for nearly 20 years," he said. "I'm just trying to better my life and look forward to retirement. I think a one-time business license fee on inspection should be enough."

If Wiederrick is successful in gathering 258 signatures on either of his petitions, the city will be required to include a referendum on one of the upcoming city election ballots, allowing voters to decide on these issues. The required number of signatures is based on the number of people who voted in the last city election.

Hailey City Administrator Heather Dawson said development impact fees brought the city $54,000 between last June, when they began, and October. Based on 2005 construction applications, they were expected to bring in $500,000.

Because of the current slowdown in the local construction industry, Dawson said the city is already bracing for another $250,000 budget shortfall. That will follow last year's $250,000 decrease in revenue from a sharp reduction in building permit applications.

Another cause for concern over the city budget is an expected assessment from the E-911 emergency dispatch program, which Dawson said will cost the city $250,000 in coming months.

"Ketchum is only having to update their system," said Mayor Rick Davis of the consolidated dispatch program. "Hailey is pretty much going to have to start from scratch."

In other Hailey news:

- In light of expected city budget shortfalls, the City Council decided not to fund the Sustain Blaine regional economic study's request for $25,000 Monday night. However, Hailey Mayor Rick Davis and the entire council spoke in favor of the plan and agreed to consider funding the group in the future.

- Piper Jaffrey representative Greg Hagen offered the council his company's fixed-income institutional investment services to handle excess cash in city coffers. Dawson tracked the company's mock portfolio for city funds since October and found that Piper Jaffrey's services would have earned the city $20,000 more than investing in the state investment pool during the same period. Hagen pointed out that the investment pool pays monthly. "Wthout investments of longer duration, you can lose when the pool falls," he said.

- Sweetwater Townhomes' attorney Jim Laski came to an agreement with the city over alternative deed-restriction requirements for the 421-unit Woodside development, paving the way for sales of the units and financing for further construction. Laski was at loggerheads with city leaders, claiming they added additional criteria to deed-restriction qualifications laid out in his clients' original planned-unit development application, including those related to local employment status, maximum net worth and a "flip clause" to hinder buyers from purchasing the units as investments. To date, 58 of the planned 421 units have been built.




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