Friday, March 12, 2010

Hailey gets ultimatum on Colorado Gulch

Landowner says public access to area could be lost


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

A trail that leads from Heagle Park in Hailey to the Colorado Gulch Bridge along the Big Wood River runs through private property but has been used by Hailey residents for decades.

Now the trail—which goes for about three-quarters of a mile through old-growth cottonwood forest—could be lost forever, unless the city agrees to play ball with developer Jeff Pfaeffle and his partner, Grant Stevens.

Pfaeffle told the City Council last year that the trail is so popular that a community "fun run" was held on it. Pfaeffle and Stevens were hoping to divert most of the trail from the river toward Broadford Road and donate it to the city. The donation would come as part of a deal to annex about 20 acres of high ground above the trail on the east side of Broadford Road. Their plan is to build a 90-unit housing development, known as Colorado Gulch Preserve, along Broadford Road.

Despite the offer of the trail, the council was unwilling in February to approve the annexation, largely because it would require forced annexation of property held by nearby residents of Broadford Road. Several of the residents have expressed opposition to the proposed development because of visual impacts and increased traffic.

Further public comment on the annexation request will take place on Monday, March 22. That meeting will include discussion of a letter of ultimatum Stevens sent to the City Council last week.

In the letter, Stevens warned that the trail would be shut off permanently to the public within two months unless he and Pfaeffle are allowed to move forward with the Colorado Gulch Preserve development. Annexation of the property into the city could allow for about five times the density permitted under county zoning laws.

Stevens, who has a home in Ketchum and works as a surgeon in Southern California, wanted to donate the existing trail to the city seven years ago as part of another annexation and development plan. That plan fell through because the proposed development was in the floodplain.

In January 2008, the Stevens family donated 103 acres on both sides of the Big Wood River in the vicinity of lower Colorado Gulch, including three-quarters of a mile of riverfront on the river's west bank, into a voluntary conservation easement with the Hailey-based Wood River Land Trust. The agreement reserved a right to develop one home-site within the area. Stevens owns two possible home-sites within the conservation easement on the west side of the river. He suggested in his letter that he would sell this area, after closing it off to the public, if the annexation does not move forward.

"I am no longer willing to suffer the financial hardships and loss of property value as a result of vandalism and trespassing," Stevens wrote in the letter last week.

Stevens said he has hired a security firm to monitor the property, as well as workers to eliminate the trail, destroy a bridge and build fences to keep out trespassers.

"We will apprehend, detain, arrest and prosecute any and all people who trespass [on] and or vandalize our property," he wrote.

Stevens ended his letter by saying the proposed annexation should be approved because the Hailey Parks and Lands Board and the Wood River Land Trust support it.

He could not be reached for comment.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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