Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hailey rejects waiver for ARCH

River Street senior-housing project still moving forward

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey City Council turned down a request Monday by the ARCH Community Housing Trust for a break on building permit fees for community housing projects.

The council unanimously voted down a draft ordinance, initiated by ARCH, that would have provided a 75 percent reduction in building permit fee costs for any community housing project undertaken by a government entity or nonprofit organization.

Under the proposed ordinance, city taxpayers would have paid for 75 percent of the cost of inspection and design reviews for the community housing projects, rather than ARCH or other community housing developers.

"We have consistently said no to fee waivers for nonprofits," Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said. "If we do this, it would open the floodgates."

ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith spoke in favor of the proposed ordinance, saying such municipal contributions, or "matches," allowed for projects to be fast-tracked through financing organizations.

"At the Idaho Housing and Finance Association, the projects with more match move to the top of the pile," she said.

ARCH has two occupied community housing condominiums on Pine Street and two other projects under way in Hailey. One of the projects consists of a two single-family-home development on Walnut Street on land donated by the county. The other is a 24-unit senior-housing project on River Street on land donated by the city.

The proposed ordinance would have saved about $1,500 each for the qualified buyers of the two Walnut Street homes, which will cost about $153,000 each to build.

The proposed ordinance would have provided ARCH with about $25,000 of amenities for the senior-housing project on River Street, which will provide affordable rental units for qualified low-income earners aged 55 and older.

The council expressed support for the work of ARCH in Hailey, but declined to reduce fees that are used to support the city's building department.

"The building department has been in the hole for two years," said Councilman Don Keirn.

He and Haemmerle said a building-permit-fee waiver would have to apply to private entities as well to be fair.

Developers in Hailey are required to dedicate 20 percent of units in residential housing projects to community housing.

"The bigger question is whether the taxpayers support community housing and want to foot the bill for it," said Mayor Rick Davis.

Tony Evans:

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