Friday, August 22, 2008

P&Z limits Quigley development

Loss of upper-canyon home sites could be deal breaker

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to restrict development in the upper reaches of Quigley Canyon on Tuesday. In preserving the sensitive wildlife area, the commission may have sacrificed an 18-hole golf course, miles of nordic ski trails and a year-round clubhouse, all for the use of Hailey residents.

After three months of public hearings and deliberations, the P&Z voted to recommend an annexation request by Quigley Green Owners LLC that could bring 379 homes and more than 1,000 acres of the canyon into the city limits. Yet the conditions placed on developer David Hennessy by the P&Z may prove too restrictive for him to continue working with the city.

"The last thing we want to do is go ahead with a project that is financially questionable," Hennessy said. "We really tried hard on this."

Hennessy has offered the city multiple amenities in exchange for annexation, including an 18-hole Audubon-certified golf course, a new municipal well site, extensive biking and ski trails and a year-round clubhouse. Hennessy has said the golf course alone will cost $13 million to build.

The P&Z has required that the city retain a 51 percent ownership of the course in case it proves to be a money maker. It also set 55 conditions related to land use, transportation and wildlife impacts, recreation and water use.

In addition, the Blaine County School District has requested 15 to 20 acres of land (or in-lieu fees) for construction of a new elementary school, which school district Treasurer Mike Chatterton said will be needed to accommodate the increased population associated with the development.

Hennessy and his associates are in the process of measuring the financial impacts these conditions will have on his bottom line, and whether or not to proceed to the City Council for further scrutiny. If the numbers don't work out, he said, he will develop in the county, where stricter zoning standards allow for only about 120 homes in the canyon.

Despite the many demands placed on the developer in exchange for annexation, Hennessy seemed willing to move forward if allowed to build and sell 54 homes on sites ranging from one to 120 acres in size in the easternmost reaches of the canyon above Quigley Pond and in Deadman Gulch.

"This is an either/or situation," he said.

At a public hearing last month, Idaho Department of Fish and Game staff biologist Mike McDonald reiterated an earlier F&G recommendation that the developer abandon plans to build in Deadman Gulch, which extends for about a mile north of Quigley Pond. F&G also recommended reducing housing densities along a mile-long narrow canyon east of the pond where elk and mule deer spend the winter. On Tuesday, the P&Z recommended Recreational Green Belt zoning in the upper canyon, which prohibits home construction, as a condition of annexation.

"These conditions add a lot of cost to us," Hennessy said. "Not allowing us to build up there keeps us from recouping that cost. We still think the best way to do this is to work with the city, but right now we can build above the pond under county zoning requirements."

Most of the land in Deadman Gulch and above Quigley Pond falls in the county's Mountain Overlay District, which limits development to about 15 units per acre. Yet that base density could be curtailed for a number of reasons.

"The county has stricter standards than the city with respect to wildlife and wetlands issues," said county Regional Planner Jeff Adams, who will review the developer's plans if he decides to abandon his annexation request.

"Base density requirements are not always guaranteed," he said.

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