Friday, July 10, 2009

Quigley is a bet Hailey canít afford

William F. Hughes lives in Hailey


The Hailey City Council is engaged in deliberations regarding the annexation of lands out Quigley Canyon. I will take this opportunity to remind them that the overwhelming majority of public comment was in opposition to this development. As proposed, it is entirely incompatible with existing development in Hailey.

I see a pattern of denial locally regarding economic realities. Debt-fueled growth proved unsustainable. Those holding on to expectations of a rapid return to the malignant prosperity of the past decade would be wise to consider more realistic, alternative scenarios. An editorial in this paper concluded, "The recent past will not become the present. To believe otherwise is to risk folly and to bet the future on a bubble that burst."

Given the insignificant sum offered by the applicant in fees, the assumption is apparently that the narrow interests supporting this project feel it is acceptable to burden the broader community of Hailey with enormous risk. It is not acceptable if the council is representing the broader community rather than narrow interests. Over and over citizens pointed to Old Cutters and Sweetwater and the staggering excesses of real estate inventory in Hailey and said, "No more!"

I appreciated Marty Flannes' guest opinion in a recent edition of this paper. Perhaps the only thing I might agree on with an individual representing development interests is that Hailey's annexation process is tragically flawed—a cart before the horse situation. To sign the annexation agreement before the details of any of the abundant and complicated issues presented are resolved is irrational.

The many meetings have produced far more questions than answers. In the end, the only rationale offered by the mayor and some members of the council for approval of this project was a truly lame attempt to exploit fear over what the county might do, raising the specter of a couple thousand homes east of Hailey. Blaine County Regional Planner Jeffrey Adams blew this nonsense out of the water in the final two meetings, indicating that critical wildlife habitat above the Quigley Pond and out Deadman Gulch may already be excluded from residential development by the Mountain Overlay District boundary.

Without access to Hailey's sewage treatment facilities or discharge line (they could never secure the requisite easements or permits on their own), Quigley Green LLC has nothing other than the beautiful floor of a gorgeous, undeveloped canyon planted in barley. Hailey is not, and has no desire to be, Sun Valley. Surveys indicate affordable golf is not the incentive assumed. The Blaine County Recreation District needs to solve its own problems, not pile them back on the citizens of Hailey.

Thorough examination of the evidence in this valley proves that residential development is not economic development. Residential development is a losing proposition, producing only short-term economic benefits while impacts on the quality of life and the carrying capacity of natural resources remain permanent. At some point, the real estate developers and investors—some of whom are based in Connecticut—will have to come to terms with the shifting paradigm and the fact that "takings" legislation was resoundingly rejected by voters in Idaho. Spinning a field of barley into gold is a fairy tale from a past when greed and corruption ruled, and McMansions sprouted like mushrooms one wet June.

Again, "The recent past will not become the present. To believe otherwise is to risk folly and to bet the future on a bubble that burst." Citizens of Hailey simply cannot afford that bet.

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