Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Quigley could be so much more


I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of stress that Quigley developer David Hennessy has experienced trying to deliver the added value that annexation represented to his bosses in Connecticut. Given the revised proposal's on-site shared costs, with virtually nothing offered for the significant off-site infrastructure improvements and department upgrades that a development of the scale proposed would have required, the only thing this annexation request was ever really about was using the city and citizens of Hailey to socialize the liabilities attached to a real estate investment that has lost well over half its purchase value. The mayor and council have executed their primary duty to protect citizens from exposure to the massive risk this proposal represented, admirably.

The real opportunity here would require vision. The quiet industry, which is a vital component of this valley's economy and is revealed by the stream of vehicles flowing north each morning and south each evening, is the affluent. The potential for Quigley Canyon to become something more than simply another investment in residential real estate development is unlimited. How long the current owners of Quigley Canyon Ranch are willing to carry around this albatross in an environment of excess supply, and at what price this undeveloped real estate might be acquired by those with the financial resources to make an offer, is simply speculation that I am not qualified to engage in.

A nonprofit project such as Quigley Commons might invite the entire community in as stakeholders to determine the optimum benefits available from the future disposition of these lands. Following acquisition, lean, intelligent management would provide sufficient cash flow to preclude the endless fundraising that constrains many nonprofits.

Some believe the highest use of these lands is the alfalfa field currently occupying the canyon. Some think a campus for a College of Environmental Studies at the mouth of the canyon would bring the vitality of youth to our valley. Another educational asset might include facilities for a College of Southern Idaho extension program for geriatric care, with our rapidly aging population providing ample opportunity for on-the-job training. An abundance of trails, and open space for local Nordic programs, would assure that such activities are a permanent fixture in the canyon.

I would hope the Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy might help identify and preserve lands that Idaho Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Jerome Hansen identified as "so critical to area wildlife that Fish and Game had wanted to purchase them, but simply did not have the resources."

Yes, Quigley has the potential to become something more than an investment or hollow residential enclave, diversifying and stimulating the local economy, and perhaps generously offering returns and value that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

William F. Hughes is a resident of Hailey.

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