Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Forced annexation policy surfaces in Hailey

Jeff Pfaeffle plans 90-unit development south of Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Developer Jeff Pfaeffle has plans to develop a 21-acre, 90-unit housing project south of Hailey on the west side of Broadford Road, but he will need the support of the city, and perhaps a few landowners if he is to succeed.

Pfaeffle hopes the city will annex his property in exchange for a donation of land along the Big Wood River that will ensure public access from Heagle Park to Colorado Gulch. Pfaeffle's plan was presented about a year ago to the Planning and Zoning Commission, but until Monday had not been discussed publicly.

He succeeded in presenting outlines of the plan at Monday night's City Council meeting by raising the issue of "forced annexation" beforehand to City Attorney Ned Williamson.

Forced annexation is a policy, rarely used by Hailey officials, that forces land in the county into city limits when the benefits to the city warrant it. It can be used to streamline boundaries when portions of county land become surrounded by city land. If Pfaeffle's development is approved, such a scenario would exist with land that lies between his and the city.

Williamson presented Pfaeffle's plan to the council Monday, saying it represented a chance to address a "significant policy decision."

"You can't have islands of unincorporated lands in the city," he said.

But the council unanimously refused to see Pfaeffle's plan, which is in the preliminary stages of P&Z review.

"Forced annexation is a lot like condemnation," Councilman Don Keirn said. "It has to be for the public good or benefit. I don't know anything about this application. We will have to wait and see."

This isn't the first time Pfaeffle has tried to develop portions of this property, which has acres of cattle pasture and includes a Cottonwood forest alongside the Big Wood River. Several years ago he requested annexation of a portion closer to the river and outside of the Area of City Impact zone established by the city.

The Area of City Impact is a designated area outside the city limits in which development would impact city services.

The current configuration of Pfaeffle's plan raises the elevation of the planned development onto the bench out of the floodplain and into the Area of City Impact, but brings its borders away from the southern boundary of the city.

Annexation, which allows developers to hook up to city services and provides the financial benefit of increased density allowances, can only take place on property that is contiguous with the city. About six acres of land owned by several people stands between Pfaeffle's proposed project and the city limits.

If the city were to forcibly annex those properties, Pfaeffle's project may succeed more easily.

"We needed to get this in front of City Council as a policy issue," Pfaeffle said in an interview. "Its good to get the emotions out there and find out what they are."

Kathie Barfuss and William Miles, two landowners whose property lies between the proposed development and the city, were at Monday's meeting. Each expressed concerns over becoming unwilling citizens of Hailey.

Barfuss raised concerns over how city zoning ordinances would limit the use of her property for equestrian uses. Miles said he knew of no legal requirement for forcing annexation of "islands" of county property into the city limits.

City Engineer Tom Hellen said any property owners brought into the city would have to pay about $10,000 in hook-up fees to city water and sewer lines.

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