By LOWELL THOMAS
The Hailey City Council passed an annexation ordinance unanimously at its meeting April 9. It was supported by Mayor Fritz Haemmerle. This ordinance will not be looked on favorably by a large developer as it will make it more expensive and difficult to request an annexation to the city.
What will this mean to business owners and homeowners? Please think this through. A large development requires the developer to install roads, utilities, sidewalks, etc. and then build the structures. This creates many good-paying jobs for our local workers. These local workers will spend their wages in our businesses, and it is recognized that there is at least a fivefold multiplying economic factor within the community where those dollars are spent. It means that if $1 million is spent locally, it will have a $5 million boost to our economy.
The organization Sustain Blaine made a presentation to the City Council and the mayor this spring, showing that construction and housing spending in Blaine County dropped from $160 million in 2006 to $79 million in 2011, and our local economy is now growing at a meager 1.5 percent. If construction and housing spending would begin to move up toward the 2006 level, it would not take long to show an economic growth factor above 3 percent, and perhaps it would make our community more attractive for other businesses to locate here. It seams to me that our local governments in the valley should be making it easier and more attractive for development, not harder.
What impact does development have on your business or your home? We all know of areas in our country where there were no jobs and business closed. People moved away, leaving vacant housing and vacant business properties. Is that happening here? I just sold a residence and it was appraised by the lending institution at $91 per square foot when viewed with comparable sales. My insurance company uses a replacement cost factor of $150 per square foot, and that does not include a price for the land. Prior to 2006 when development was moving forward, businesses were generally doing fine, house prices were increasing and the city was bring in money for its necessary capital expenditures. For most homeowners, our homes are our biggest investment and our best financial investment over our lifetime. If our local economy contracts and your home values decline considerably, where does that leave you financially? Probably not in a good position.
I reviewed my 2011 Blaine County property assessor's valuations for my properties and compared it to the comparables used on my appraisal. The assessor's value was 20 percent higher. This means that the county and the city will have to increase their charged fees by approximately 20 percent if they wish to have the same amount of property tax income as they had last year. Now that city officials do not have impact fees from developers, a portion of which was used to fund necessary capital expenditures, they are thinking of adding a capital expenditure fee to the property tax bill. It may not happen this year, but where else are they going to get the necessary funding? This has been discussed.
The "no-development" group is always making its position known to our elected officials, but there is no "pro-development" voice being heard. If you agree with some of my thinking, let your elected officials know so they can feel supported when they see the need to create jobs here. They should be making it easier for a well-planned development to proceed and not be putting unnecessary hurdles in the way. More jobs mean improved local economy, improved business environment and improved property values.
Lowell Thomas is a resident of Hailey.