Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Life Church annexation denied

Pastor says he will build in the county

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council voted to deny annexation of nearly 11 acres north of Albertsonís grocery store. The Life Church of Hailey will build in the county, which allows one residential unit per acre on the property. Photo by Willy Cook

After 11 years of push and pull with the city of Hailey, the county and nearby residents, the Life Church has been denied annexation into Hailey's city limits.

"We will build in the county instead," said Life Church Pastor Michael Hendricks. "It will be great."

During a special workshop held Monday night to consider annexation of the 10.68-acre Life Church parcel north of Albertson's grocery store, Hailey city council members were eager to provide direction to the applicants. The council sought a donation of nearly two acres of property fronting Highway 75 in exchange for annexation, and were considering others parts of the property as a site for a fire station, when a motion was made by Martha Burke to deny the request.

The council decided Monday that there would be no "substantial benefits" from the annexation to the city of Hailey, and that the request for business zoning at the end of town contradicted anti-sprawl wording in the Hailey Comprehensive Plan.

Several residents of nearby neighborhoods, including Doug Fenn of River Grove Farm, spoke out in opposition of the annexation, stating that a glut of empty commercial space in Hailey's downtown core needs to be occupied before more commercial space is built on the town's edge.

"I have always been in favor of them building a church," he said. "But business development in this area is not appropriate."

Only Councilman Fritz Haemmerle voted to continue the annexation discussion. He felt that business zoning could be appropriate for the site, but said the Hailey Comprehensive Plan would have to be re-written to accommodate it.

Representing the church, attorney Ed Lawson provided a master plan for the annexation request, which closely resembled one presented in August. The request called for a 6,000-square-foot, two-story church on four partly wooded acres west of Highway 75, adjacent to River Grove farm.

The council had been unanimously in support of building the church for at least a year, but wary of plans for the rest of the property, which included 3.5 acres of Transitional zoning (TR) behind Albertson's and 1.2 acres of General Residential zoning (GR) bordering Highway 75 between Albertson's Express gas station and River Grove Farm. TR zoning on 10.68 acres would increase allowed density from the one residential unit per acre permitted under current Blaine County zoning (R-1) to 10 units per acre. It would also permit office buildings.

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