Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Questions linger about Quigley annexation plan

Developerís rebuttal and final public comment on May 21


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Development plans for the Quigley Canyon ranch property, east of Hailey, call for lots for more than 400 houses if the site is annexed into the city.

Lingering questions regarding a proposed 444-unit housing development in Quigley Canyon will not deter Hailey officials from deciding late this month whether to annex the property.

Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said Monday the City Council will decide on the matter by the end of May, putting to rest an annexation request that has occupied city staff and public officials on and off since 2007.

A public hearing was held on Monday at Wood River High School to hear further public comments on a fiscal-impact study and water rights appraisal associated with developer Dave Hennessy's proposed development on about 900 acres in Quigley Canyon. The plan would increase by four times housing density in the canyon but would maintain public access to trails in the area.

Comments continued from last week about the viability of a fiscal-impact study prepared by consultant Caplan Associates, using projected home-pricing data supplied by Hennessy and adjusted down 30 percent since 2009, due to the recession.

"Values are not down 30 percent, but half or more," said contractor Richard Stopol. He said a lot similar to one he purchased a few years ago in Old Cutters subdivision recently sold at a "fire sale" for "about a third of what he paid for his lot."

Yet Daryl Fauth, an employee at Blaine County Title Co., said home sales have picked up over the same quarter last year, indicating that demand for housing is picking up. He said lots in Quigley Canyon would be preferred over many infill lots in Hailey, due to their locations.

"We have to continue to move forward as a capitalist society," Fauth said.

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One factor that could sway the City Council in favor of annexation is an 1880 water right that would be given to the city if annexation is approved.

Yet, hydrologist Wendy Pabich said despite an appraisal by West Water consultants valuing the water right at $2.2 to $3.3 million, the city could ultimately see a water deficit from the development when it is built out.

"At best it is a wash, at worst it would be a net loss for the city," Pabich said.

Pabich also cited state law that requires surface water rights appurtenant to Quigley Canyon be used for irrigation there, rather than for mitigation (replacing the city's planned municipal irrigation) as Mayor Fritz Haemmerle has suggested could be done.

Haemmerle acknowledged "many" questions and possible omissions from the Caplan study that could have affected the annexation fees that could be assessed to the developer. He cited the exclusion of valuations of the city's existing water rights and land values in estimating the value of the developer's "buy-in" to city services. Haemmerle also asked the developer what annexation fees he deemed appropriate.

Caplan proposed assessing about $6.7 million in annexation fees.

Attorney Evan Robertson, who represents the developer, said he would respond to all comments at the beginning of the final public hearing scheduled about the proposed annexation. It is set for Monday, May 21, at 5:30 p.m. at the Hailey Middle School. His rebuttal will be followed by two hours of public comment on all issues regarding the proposed annexation.

Attorney and Quigley Road resident Jim Phillips cautioned the City Council against approving the annexation before a lawsuit, filed by Old Cutters developer John Campbell against the city of Hailey over $2.5 million in annexation fees, is settled in bankruptcy court in Boise.

"Unless and until the court says the [annexation] fees are enforceable, it's a crapshoot," Phillips said.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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