Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rinker hits roadblocks

Peregrine Ranch faces city, county issues


Express Staff Writers

Harry Rinker has two problems that are likely to force him to wait on his proposed Peregrine Ranch development. And the issues he faces are likely to bedevil other would-be developers in the Hailey area.

Rinker hopes to subdivide a 158-acre property south of Hailey on the east side of state Highway 75 into 72 lots ranging in size from about half an acre to an acre. He also plans to build a golf course on 84 acres of the property. Rinker submitted a planned-unit-development application, which, if approved, would exempt it from several zoning restrictions in exchange for a "superior design."

But the city that might provide services to his property, and the county that has to approve the development, both erected roadblocks this week.

Start with the city of Hailey, which is just now realizing the scope of its problems with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA has developed stricter standards for treated wastewater discharged into the Big Wood River. Those standards may force the city to spend millions on a new sewage treatment facility. They're also prompting the city to second-guess any new developments asking for city services.

"The deadline is out there somewhere, but it may be coming up quick," said Public Works Director Tom Hellen at a City Council meeting Monday night.

The city has sought a compromise agreement with the EPA to reduce the wastewater discharge standards.

All of that is a problem for Rinker. He worked out a deal several years ago under which the city agreed to extend sewer services to Peregrine Ranch. Now city officials are wondering if they have the sewer treatment capacity to serve Rinker and meet the EPA standards.

The period for extension of services to Peregrine Ranch expires next month. Rinker asked for a five-year extension of the sewer extension agreement Monday and was denied in light of the uncertainties.

"We will see what happens on January 13th," Mayor Rick Davis told him.

On another front, Rinker's development was sent back to Blaine County's planning and zoning commission after the County Commissioners prompted Rinker's attorney, Brian Ballard, to narrow a challenge to the county's PUD ordinance.

The issue centered on a late October recommendation by the county Planning and Zoning Commission to deny Rinker's development application.

Ballard's challenge questioned the legality of the county's planned-unit-development standards, namely that these kinds of developments must have a "superior design." In a brief filed with the county on Oct. 16, Ballard argued that the county's superior design standards are "vague and subjective."

Ballard's challenge worked, perhaps all too well: Based on his questions, the P&Z recommended against approval of his client's application.

On Tuesday, faced with questioning by Blaine County Commissioner Tom Bowman, Ballard admitted that he had described his challenge too broadly. He said he was only concerned by the aspect of the superior design section that—at least in his opinion—seems to require that developers provide affordable housing.

Under the county's ordinance, developers can put more houses onto each acre if they can provide amenities that the county considers superior design. Under the ordinance, superior design elements can include clustered buildings, environmentally friendly construction or affordable housing.

Ballard's original challenge prompted commissioners to consider a moratorium on all new PUD applications.

But now, with Ballard's objection narrowed, commissioners seemed to feel more comfortable sending Rinker's application back to the P&Z for that body to consider. The commissioners voted 2-to-1 to send the application back to the P&Z with instructions that it consider other aspects of superior design. Bowman voted to keep the application moving at the commission level.

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