Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quigley plan encounters resistance

Hailey P&Z asks developer to return on Oct. 17

The city of Hailey is debating whether to annex a large portion of Quigley Canyon, east of the city.


For the Express

Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission members declined Monday to approve the latest application for annexation of Quigley Canyon, citing a myriad of conflicts between the proposed development and the Hailey Comprehensive Plan.

"I can't approve with what I have," said P&Z Chair Geoffrey Moore. "I would deny based on the comprehensive plan."

"Were we expected to just rubberstamp this?" Commissioner Owen Scanlon asked. "There have been mixed signals about what we're doing here."

He said the high density of homes proposed at the mouth of the canyon east of Hailey is a concern.

"It's a question of what Hailey needs," said Assistant Chair Mark Johnstone, "Do we need this space? I'm not sure we need it."

"As a concept, annexation makes sense," said Commissioner Michael Pogue, who favored the plan. "Development will occur whether we approve or not. We are leaving a lot of the hard questions aside."

Many of the specifics of the proposal would have to be addressed by the subdivision code and building department later, they all agreed.

"I'm concerned we'd be walking away from a great opportunity," Pogue said.

"I agree with Mark," Scanlon said. "We have a lot of vacant land in Hailey. I don't see a need to expand the city."

Developer David Hennessy, of Quigley Green Owners LLC, tried to persuade the P&Z.

"We feel the best course of action is annexation to the city," he said. "The proposal allows us to grow as the city grows."

There have been 21 public hearings on plans to develop Quigley since 2008. Hennessy's latest plan calls for annexing 912 acres for development with 444 housing units and 93 acres of open space, with a Nordic facility and trails. He also plans to give the city water rights from the property. His previous plan, which was rejected by the city, called for annexing 1,109 acres for development with 379 residential units, an 18-hole public golf course, a Nordic facility and trails.

Hennessy said if his plan is approved, the Quigley development would take decades to build out fully.

Plans for development above Quigley Pond have been eliminated. The new project leaves migration corridors for wintering animals, Hennessey said.

He also said his group is planning to restore Quigley Creek if allowed to proceed.

"It's currently an irrigation ditch (for an agricultural field on the site)."

But no one knows how much water Quigley Creek can provide.

"How much water is coming from Quigley Creek?" Johnstone asked.

The city is evaluating the water rights issue.

"You don't have that information before you tonight," said Public Works Director Tom Hellen.

Hennessy, the holder of an 1880 water right in the canyon, has offered it to Hailey in exchange for approval of the annexation, which would give the property access to city services.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Hailey City Council Chairman Fritz Haemmerle at the Aug. 29 City Council meeting, at which the application was sent back to the P&Z for further review. The council remanded the application to the P&Z because the latest version of the proposal was substantially different than the previous version.

The Nordic trail system that comes with the project drew high marks.

"We have a very strong trail plan here," said Jim Keating, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District. "It has good connectivity. In general, this is a huge asset for the town. We feel happy with where we are."

Keating said the district was preparing an official public comment.

The Quigley annexation proposal includes a 7.39-acre site for a 400-student elementary school on the east end of the canyon, Hennessy said.

"The school district wants 20 acres for an elementary school," Scanlon said.

"I'm not sure where that figure comes from," Hennessy said, and added that should the school district decline the lot, the area would remain open space. Hennessy is taking his proposal to the Blaine County School District next week.

Not all attendees of the meeting were in favor, either.

"You need your own expertise," said Michael Wickes of Hailey. You need a hydrologist, and a biologist. You can't believe the permittee. This is not fair and objective information."

But in the end, a clash between the proposal and the comprehensive plan ruled the day.

"It's gone in the wrong direction," said Moore, who cited multiple conflicts with comprehensive plan sections on land use, natural resources, wildlife and transportation.

Hearing this, Evan Robertson, counsel for Hennessy, asked to be allowed to address the conflicts and report back to the commission.

"This was only a partial remand by the City Council, not a start-from-scratch proposal," he said. They agreed to return on Oct. 17.

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