Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Will Hailey annex Quigley in exchange for water rights?

Public pressures council to address “broader issues”


The Hailey City Council will hold a public hearing with Quigley Canyon owner David Hennessy on April 28 to see how much water he is willing to give the city as part of a deal that could bring more than 1,000 acres and 387 homes into the city limits.

Hennessy has offered to build an 18-hole golf course in the canyon, an extensive trails system and a year-round clubhouse in exchange for annexation, which would allow him to build four times the number of homes in the canyon than he is allowed under county zoning.

On Monday night at a packed City Hall, the council addressed traffic mitigation, trail access and water and wastewater issues relating to the annexation request. However, residents expressed frustration that the council wasn't addressing the overall merits of the development.

Hailey resident John Barton asked council members why they were not addressing the "broader issues."

"There is a huge inventory of unsold homes in the city with falling home prices," he said. "Where are the jobs going to come from for these people?"

Resident Mary Roberson agreed with Barton, saying, "Its like we skipped dinner and have gone right to dessert."

Bill Hughes reminded the council that both the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission have recommended prohibiting development above Quigley Pond and in Deadman Gulch to the north, due to the effect it would have on wildlife.

Hennessy has said that he would no longer work toward annexation with the city if he is not allowed to develop in those areas because he needs the revenue from sales of "estate lots" there to fund the golf course and other amenities.

"If this is true then these other questions and details are moot," Hughes said.

Yet Councilman Fritz Haemmerle, who has been obsessed with increasing water pressure across the city, was eager to explore the possibility of acquiring ownership of senior water rights appurtenant to Quigley Canyon.

"We've said we want any water that is out there (in Quigley Canyon) in our name, and there seems to be some disagreement on that (from the developer)," Haemmerle said.

Haemmerle recently worked behind closed doors with City Attorney Ned Williamson and Old Cutters developer John Campbell for several months to gain title to a portion of an 1883 water right worth $930,000 in lieu of annexation fees that Campbell has owed the city since November.

Hennessy's attorney, Evan Roberts, told the council that there were more then enough water rights in Quigley to provide irrigation of the golf course and domestic use.

"As for any water left over, that is a matter of money," Roberts said. "We are glad to see that you have created a market for water with Old Cutters."

Haemmerle called for a meeting dedicated to sorting out the amount of water rights attached to Quigley Canyon and who will own them if the city agrees to annex the property.

"We can't leave ownership issues dangling," he said.

The council has stated that it will hold a public hearing on a fiscal impact study of the proposed Quigley development that the city expects to be completed next month.

Councilwoman Carol Brown said she expects the council to make a decision on the annexation request by June.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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