Wednesday, April 6, 2011

City considers changes to Cutters

Property donation proposed to cancel annexation fees


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

In lieu of further annexation payments due, and under pressure to meet bank obligations, developers of the Old Cutters subdivision in Hailey are hoping the city will agree to take over subdivision property that has not sold in the past three and a half years.

Old Cutters, north of Quigley Canyon on the eastern edge of Hailey, was recorded for final plat approval on Nov. 29, 2007, and included nearly 150 lots.

The subdivision included a substantial community housing commitment. The developers are now also proposing to strike some of those requirements.

After hearing a pitch made by attorney Ed Lawson and Old Cutters principal John Campbell about a phased conveyance of property to the city in lieu of $2.48 million in payments, the Hailey City Council decided Monday to continue a public hearing of the proposal until Monday, April 11.

The council cited questions about whether the city should take a financial stake in the troubled project.

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"Our job is to protect the future of taxpayers," City Councilwoman Martha Burke said. "It's a good project, but ... costs [of city services for the subdivision] are not going down. Things have to be paid for."

However, many assembled to speak to the council said allowing a bank to take over dozens of available lots in the subdivision could also result in a bad deal for the city.

Campbell was commended repeatedly as a good partner, especially through the financial hard times that have hit the nation. He said he is emotionally committed to the project.

Councilman Fritz Haemmerle said that if Hailey went along with the proposed amendment, he wanted a guarantee that Campbell wouldn't simply wash his hands of the property. After Campbell emphasized his dedication, Haemmerle said that although he had vacillated many times during the course of the public hearing, he was inclined to accept the terms of the deal and try to work with Campbell rather than have to work with a new entity, such as a bank.

Campbell said at the outset of the presentation that he understood that the council could reject his proposal, and that he too believed that a "deal is a deal."

Old Cutters has so far paid the city $1.3 million in annexation fees. According to Lawson's presentation, it has spent another $3.5 million in improvements, land donations and workforce housing.

In a March 2009 amendment to the annexation agreement, the city agreed to accept surface water rights of 1.87 cfs, then worth more than $921,000, in lieu of some fees.




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