Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Femling project moves forward

Hailey City Council considers changes to county sheriff’s remodel

Walt Femling


Express Staff Writers

Walt Femling is facing the consequences of the real estate downturn, not as Blaine County sheriff but as a developer.

The Hailey City Council is in a position to save Femling money and provide several affordable housing units to qualified buyers at his condo project, called Quigley View.

At an Aug. 25 Hailey City Council meeting, Femling requested an alternative, affordable housing deed restriction to his 12-unit condominium redevelopment on Croy Street.

The designation, called a workforce market deed restriction, would alter Femling's original agreement with the city. In the original agreement, penned Jan. 8, 2007, Femling would provide three community housing units at income category 4.

Femling has requested an amendment to his community housing plan. In his first phase, he proposes to sell one unit at income category 5, and one with a workforce market deed restriction.

According to a Hailey planning document, Femling proposes a sales price of $198,000. The price agreed upon in January 2007 was $172,000, but subject to market conditions.

A letter from former Housing Director Michael David fleshes out the problem:

"At current interest rates this would result in each unit being priced between $180,000 and $190,000," David wrote. "The final price is based on interest rates at the date the unit is placed on the market for sale and may be somewhat higher or lower than that amount."

Under category 4, a two-person household could make a maximum of $59,840 to be eligible. Under category 5, a two-person household could make $71,808.

Femling said category 4 seems prohibitively low. Most professional families make more than $59,840, he said.

With help from Blaine County Housing Authority Executive Director Jim Fackrell, Femling decided to ask the city for an adjustment to the original agreement.

"The workforce housing alternative has no appreciation limit, only a flip clause," Fackrell said. "Therefore it is more attractive to buyers in a down market."

Fackerell said that if the council agrees to a retroactive switch to workforce deed restrictions for Femling's units, he will be able to sell them at a higher price than he can now.

Fackerell said that several affordable housing units in the Winterhaven subdivision in Hailey went under contract within 30 days after the county granted a workforce deed restriction for the owners. Under the previous, income-based restrictions, these units were on the market for more than a year, with no takers.

"Hailey is the only city that considered and included alternative deed restrictions in its subdivision ordinance," Fackrell said.

Femling said he is pleased with the units, which he has increased in size from 700 to 950 square feet.

"The Quigley View Condos, which is owned by an LLC, and I am part of the LLC, I have owned for over 20 years," he said. "They were run down. I started this process more than three years ago.

"They're absolutely beautiful. And that's what we tried to do. We tried to make something really nice that anyone can live in."

Femling said that though he referenced emergency personnel employee salaries during negotiations over the units at Quigley View, there is not a conflict of interest. He is working on the condominiums as their developer, not as sheriff.

Fackerell said the developers of Old Cutters subdivision in Hailey recently asked for a similar switch from the housing authority to allow 100 percent, rather than 50 percent, of its 25 units remanded to workforce deed restrictions from the already agreed-upon county 20 percent.

Fackerell said they were denied before the matter got to the City Council.

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