Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crucial week ahead for Quigley plan

Public meetings set for Thursday, Monday in Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Plans by developer Quigley Green call for most of the housing to be situated on the west end of the Quigley Canyon site, with open space and trails farther to the east. If the property is annexed into the city, no houses would be built above Quigley Pond, on the right.

The Hailey City Council is scheduled to make a momentous decision in the next few weeks when it decides whether to annex about 900 acres of Quigley Canyon into the city limits.

Developer David Hennessy will host a meeting to present information and answer questions on Thursday, April 26, from 6-8 p.m. in the Minnie Moore Room of the Community Campus in Hailey.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, April 30, at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall to present a fiscal impact analysis and water rights study associated with the proposed development.

Annexation would increase housing density fourfold over county zoning allowances and eventually bring about 450 homes accommodating more than a thousand new residents.

The development could take some two decades to build out, but at stake immediately are popular Nordic skiing, hiking and biking trails on the developers' land and potential impacts on wildlife.

The requested annexation has been on the table of the city Planning Department since 2007 and has gone through many changes due to wildlife impact concerns, a crash in the housing market and Hennessy's shifting ambitions.

Hennessy is a partner in the proposed Quigley Canyon development with Connecticut-based real estate investment firm Greenfield Partners.

The current plan calls for phasing of housing construction in small sections from west to east as demand increases. It also stipulates that city infrastructure costs associated with the development be paid with financing from Quigley property owners, not city funds.

The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission has voted not to recommend approval of the current proposal, citing the plan's lack of compliance with the city's comprehensive plan.

Hennessey's request will be approved or denied with a vote from council members Carol Brown, Martha Burke, Don Keirn, Pat Cooley and, in the case of a tie vote, Mayor Fritz Hemmerle. On the city website, the mayor said he expects a decision by the end of May, following at least two public hearings.

To sweeten the pot, Hennessy has offered to give the city an 1880 water right—estimated by consultant West Water Research to be worth $2.3 million to $3.3 million—if the annexation request is approved. The City Council will decide, among other things, whether this water is a valuable enough asset to weigh in favor of giving a thumbs-up to the development. Hennessy said in an interview that he hopes the water right will be accepted by the city in lieu of annexation fees.

Critics of the annexation have pointed to the increased traffic it would bring to Hailey, wildlife impacts in Quigley Canyon and the current glut of unsold homes and undeveloped platted lots in the city of Hailey.

Including platted lots in Sweetwater Community, Old Cutters and the undeveloped Dumke property in east Hailey, the city today has 1,024 vacant and buildable lots, as well as numerous homes for sale in a distressed housing market.

A city staff report dated Nov. 21 states that if the city grows at an expected 2.5 percent growth rate, 5,034 additional people will need housing by 2028. The report also states that, along with existing infill development in the city, the 444 units planned for Quigley Canyon would accommodate this projected housing demand, but not much more, by 2028.

Annexation critics have also pointed to troubles with Old Cutters subdivision and Sweetwater Community, which have not sold well and have resulted in lawsuits against the city over agreements and fees.

In 2007, Hennessy had plans to build a Nordic center and an 18-hole golf course in the canyon. Those plans were scaled back two years later to eliminate the golf course, but to leave land vacant should the city ever want to build one. Also eliminated from the original plan are about 12 homesites at the far end of the canyon and in Deadman Gulch, areas deemed crucial to wintering wildlife by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

County Planning Administrator Tom Bergin said in January that Hennessy, or another developer, could build seven homes in this controversial area under county zoning laws. But Hennessy has said he will remove these sensitive areas from development in perpetuity, and continue to allow Nordic skiing, hiking and biking on his property in the canyon if the city agrees to his annexation request.

If the annexation is not approved, those amenities will no longer be available, Hennessy said in an interview; a more sprawling development under county zoning would interfere with trails and public access, he said. He also said he expects the entire development to be built out in 17 years, based on a projected 2.5 percent housing growth rate, the same rate the city experienced on average over the past 20 years.

Hennessy also said that at full build-out, the development would ultimately produce $800,000 in annual tax revenue to the city's general fund.

"We don't want to compete [with other home sellers]. We want the market to start growing again and then add lots to the city as it grows," he said.

A hearing is scheduled for another meeting Monday, May 7, at 5:30 p.m. in Hailey City Hall.

Tony Evans:

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