Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hailey P&Z wants to talk water

Commission listing concerns about proposed annexation

Express Staff Writer

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission is compiling a list of concerns related to a proposed development in Quigley Canyon, including those related to wildlife, traffic impacts, street designs and the needs of the Blaine County School District. The list will be forwarded to the Hailey City Council, perhaps within a few weeks.

However, it will not contain the single largest concern facing the commission as it reviews an updated annexation request now before the council that would bring 444 housing units into the canyon east of Hailey. That concern revolves around the city's possible need for 1880 water rights that it has been offered as part of the annexation request, and how much those "senior" water rights would actually benefit the city.

Developer Dave Hennessy's previous request called for 379 residential units on 1,109 acres of land, and included an 18-hole golf course and clubhouse. Both development proposals have included a continuation of Nordic ski trails and a hiking trail in the canyon, both of which the developer said would go away if he instead had to develop under county zoning allowances.

County zoning allows for only about 150 homes in the canyon.

"I recommend that the council look at the water very carefully," said Commissioner Owen Scanlon at a P&Z meeting Monday.

"It would be great if Hailey had 100 percent control of what goes on out there [Quigley], but maybe it would be better if the city waited until adjudication to decide," he said.

Scanlon was referring to the final adjudication of water rights in the valley, and the expectation that the city might need to shore up its rights to maintain use of its municipal irrigation wells, which date from the 1970s.

City leaders have for three years expressed an interest in annexing Quigley Canyon rather than leaving development to Blaine County planners. There have been 21 public hearings on plans to develop Quigley since 2008, covering a wide range of issues. The annexation discussion was taken behind closed doors for more than a year while city staff worked with the developer on an annexation agreement and discussed the value of water rights, and water consumption, associated with the development.

The other commissioners also expressed frustration Monday that the City Council remanded the annexation request back to P&Z, but only to review some 57 conditions placed on the previous version to see if it complies with the city's newly updated comprehensive plan.

"It's hard to separate water from this consideration," said Commissioner Janet Fugate.

Hennessy presented maps at the Monday meeting comparing the development of Quigley Canyon with the 35-year build-out of Woodside subdivision on the south east side of town. He said phasing requirements would ensure that the canyon be developed in stages from west to east in the canyon, and only when demand for growth and city approval call for it.

"It would allow the city to manage the growth," Hennessy said.

Yet several people called for restraint in approving the annexation, including Peter Lobb, who is running for a seat on the City Council.

Lobb drew attention to several developments that have run into hard times during the recession, including Sweetwater and Old Cutters.

"The need just isn't there," he said. "If we need more room [to grow] we can annex later. There is plenty of time to do this."

Tony Evans:

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