Friday, March 19, 2010

Colorado Gulch—the truth unwrapped

There are no home sites in the floodplain as part of this application.

Jeff Pfaeffle represents Hartland Development, which has an annexation proposal before the Hailey City Council.


I wish to use this opportunity to address some of the misconceptions surrounding the proposed Colorado Gulch annexation. This property is located on the north end of Broadford Road, across from Airport West light-industrial park and the city maintenance yard. The only reason I have brought this annexation request to the city of Hailey is to attempt to provide additional access and open space to its citizens. A development in the county, both simple and profitable, would not allow for this financial consideration. I would like to touch upon three issues that I understand to be of the most public concern: public access, forced annexation, and density.

· Public access—The landowner is not denying access to Colorado Gulch. Access is still granted through prescriptive easement from Broadford Road to the Colorado Gulch Road and bridge, and the removal of trails and bridges referred to in the landowner's letter to the Hailey City Council is not in reference to this prescriptive easement. It has never been the intention of the Justus family or the current landowner to allow access to Colorado Gulch beyond this prescriptive easement. Additionally, the Stevens family has added a 10-foot fisherman's easement running the full length of the property, in addition to conservation gifts to the Wood River Land Trust.

It has been a priority of ours for the past six years to develop, hopefully in partnership with the city, a legal trail through our property for the benefit of the community. This trail would connect directly to Colorado Gulch Road (not Broadford, as reported), incorporating portions of the already existing trail on our property. An additional trail could be established which would parallel Broadford Road, connecting Colorado Gulch Road with Silver Star, to promote public safety and trail connectivity.

· Forced Annexation—Based on a previous City Council decision, we have questioned the need to force-annex any properties not associated with our project. When Airport West was annexed into Hailey, its original county zoning was changed to business/light industrial. This property completely surrounded two residential properties, the subjects of potential current forced annexation, but the council (on which at least two current members sat) chose not to annex them at that time.

Despite this previous decision, we were asked by the city to see if all property owners affected by our annexation would be willing to be annexed in conjunction with our application. We contacted these owners, offering to pay any expenses incurred by them and asked the city to allow them to delay connecting to city services until they sold or changed use of their properties.

Additionally, our property already shares a common boundary with the city of Hailey and its city limits, potentially negating the need for other properties to act as the necessary link to the city.

· Density—The density of this property is also an important issue to us. Density is determined by a number of factors, and not necessarily by those driven by the financial needs of the developer.

When making an application for annexation, the applicant is expected to follow the guidelines of the city Planning Department, as reflected by its comprehensive plan, and not reflective of current county zoning. The stated preference of the Planning Department is to create residential density within the city limits of four units per acre to accommodate future growth and the efficient use of land. Additionally, a 20 percent community-housing component must be added to the density. Following this formula would result in 100 units on our property, absent Planning and Zoning recommendations to the contrary, which we were not given. I must be clear—the conceptual plan we presented, including the approximately 90 units that continues to be brought up in public discourse, was only to illustrate potential densities following these expected guidelines. It is of greater magnitude than we would ever wish to develop.

The acquisition of desired open space along the river for public benefit incurs costs that can only be offset through additional density, available only in the city, due to county septic limitations. However, development in the city creates millions of dollars of additional fees and expenses, which in turn drives the need for further density to offset these costs. We would be more than willing to work with the city of Hailey to find ways to reduce the density of this project.

There are no home sites in the floodplain as part of this application. The Stevens family's large river parcel, not a part of this annexation request, has sites for a home, separate guest house, and out-buildings, and will not be subdivided. This has been made clear by me at numerous public hearings.

As part of the public record to the City Council, in reference to our development, the Hailey Parks and Land Board stated, "Recreational access to the river corridor is important to the citizens of Hailey". We agree. We have been, and will continue to be, open-minded, given a fair chance.

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