Friday, May 15, 2009

Take a breather on Quigley Canyon

Scott Phillips lives in Hailey.


Much is at stake in the annexation proposal before the Hailey City Council for the development of Quigley Canyon. A whopping 377 home sites and an 18-hole golf course constitute serious ramifications.

The council has fairly and appropriately given the developer thorough hearings. But they unequivocally do not owe him an approval. Now is the time to think way beyond the "business as usual, compromise with the developer" approach. Is it going to be the proverbial tail (developers) wagging the dog or the overwhelming will of the majority of citizens who understandably want to see some brakes put on offensive rural sprawl?

An appropriate prism through which to examine the Quigley proposal consists of four components: 1) the depressed economy, 2) water conservation, 3) vastly increased traffic in residential neighborhoods, and 4) irreplaceable wildlife habitat. The dark economy has burst the real estate bubble, a fact recently illuminated with the collapse of First Bank of Idaho. Golf courses can use up to 2 million gallons of water per day. Demand for new golf courses is diminishing nationwide. Long-term development/construction activity will double traffic volumes. Loss of wildlife habitat would be severe.

Quigley development doesn't even begin to pass the low bar threshold on these reasonable criteria. There is a plethora of existing unsold houses and buildable lots within the city limits, including 243 vacant acres and 994 vacant residential lots. Cutters and Balmoral housing developments have hit a brick wall. In this foreboding economic climate, it seems irresponsible to even consider new mega real estate developments—especially those outside city boundaries requiring tens of millions in new roads, water and sewer infrastructure. Economic burdens would be shifted to the taxpayers to pay for expanded emergency services. There simply is an inescapable boatload of economic, environmental and social problems imbedded in any Quigley development.

Some might argue that if the city doesn't approve Quigley then the county will allow five-acre "ranchettes." Annexation would allow triple the density of existing county standards. Is it too much to ask for no annexation and no ranchettes and insist on irreplaceable open space?

It is possible to raise the money to purchase the land at market value and place the canyon in the public domain. The council must focus on the overriding issue: "Is Quigley annexation really beneficial for the long-term benefit and quality of life for Hailey citizens?"

Quigley's fate is the pivotal decision for Hailey's future.

For the past 20 years prior, Hailey city leaders have wisely and consistently advocated that needed growth and development should occur as close as possible to the city core.

When the airport is moved, newly available land close to Hailey's hub with no wildlife issues can then be logically re-zoned for residential and business needs, thus opening up some wonderful opportunities for progressive city growth master-planned for quality and taste.

Doesn't it make sense for our community to pause—take a deep collective breath—and refocus on what we want Hailey to truly become? It's a vision thing. My view—shared by dozens of knowledgeable and concerned Hailey neighbors—is that development of Quigley would be a further economic and environmental catastrophe and an irreversible mistake. Hailey City Council has every legal and ethical prerogative to declare a time-out and moratorium. Our intelligent and dedicated civic leaders should respect the will and desires of we the people. Our common future quality of life is at stake.

Please contact the council with your views.

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