A Blaine County planner told the Hailey City Council on Monday that even though only about a quarter the number of homes could be built under county zoning in Quigley Canyon than is proposed through annexation to the city, developer Dave Hennessy could build seven homes on sensitive wildlife areas there.
Two years ago, the council seemed willing to allow Hennessy to annex about 1,000 acres of the canyon and build to greater density there as long as he agreed to leave the upper canyon out of his plans. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game had declared Deadman Gulch and the area above the Quigley Pond vital for wildlife migration and wintering ranges. Hennessy balked at that restriction and in 2010 filed a subdivision application with Blaine County.
In his presentation Monday, county Planning Director Tom Bergin said he based his expectations on what the county has allowed over the years in other areas, including Croy Creek Preserve, Indian Creek, the Valley Club and Muldoon Ranch south of Bellevue.
Bergin said the seven homes that could be built in sensitive wildlife areas at the eastern end of the canyon would include one in Deadman Gulch and six above Quigley Pond.
Hennessy still has an annexation request and proposed development before the city of Hailey that would allow 444 homes onto 913 acres in the lower part of the canyon. The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended against approval of a conceptual plan for the development, saying it was not in compliance with the city's comprehensive plan.
Bergin said Hennessy could be allowed to build up to 105 homes on five-acre lots in Quigley Canyon, with individual or community septic tanks, but that a county analysis of a hypothetical proposal could lead to unexpected results.
"I wouldn't say [construction of 105 homes] is an entitlement," he said. "It will largely be a matter of design."
Bergin said the county's Mountain Overlay District, which prohibits building on steep slopes and in most of Deadman Gulch, is currently under review, and could result in an increase in buildable areas at the eastern end of Quigley Canyon, including on an area that has beaver ponds.
"There is water there. So it's flat," he said.
Hennessy has said he would remove existing hiking trails and skiing trails in the canyon if annexation into the city is not allowed.
On Monday, Hennessy's attorney, Evan Robertson, said construction of 105 homes on five-acre lots would be a "worst-case scenario" of evenly spread-out development. Bergin said the Muldoon Ranch subdivision south of Bellevue, which has such even development and was approved in the 1970s, is an example of what could occur in Quigley.
Bergin said Indian Creek Ranch subdivision east of Hailey provides a contrasting option open to Hennessy. It was developed under a planned-unit-development application, with clustered neighborhoods and provisions for open space and agriculture.
"The market [for homes] has been strong generally out there," he said in an interview. "[But] there is hillside development in Indian Creek, which is not favored today."
During a public hearing on March 5 at City Hall, Hailey officials will take into consideration the value of water rights that Hennessy could give to the city and determine potential fiscal impacts of the development. On April 30, a public hearing will be held at City Hall to take comments on any considerations regarding the proposed annexation.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org