Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hailey mulls new policy on schools

More public notice and reduced parking discussed

Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission heard public comment Monday and gave direction to city staff on a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow the building of schools only as a conditional use.
    Hailey currently allows schools as a permitted use in the General Residential, Limited Business and Business zones, after passing design review.
    An application last month by the Syringa Mountain School to build in the China Gardens subdivision in Hailey brought criticism from neighbors, and from the City Council, which subsequently called for increased regulation on such potentially high-impact projects.
    About 25 concerned citizens attended a P&Z meeting Monday to review the proposed new ordinance, which would require a traffic impact and pedestrian and bicycle safety study for a new school application.
    The attendees included representatives from the Syringa Mountain School, which is yet to be built; the Sage School, which is located in the Airport West subdivision; the Blaine County School District, as well as residents of China Gardens and Sherwood Forest subdivisions in Hailey.
    The China Gardens and Sherwood Forest residents expressed concern that another school application could come forward in China Gardens. They appealed to the commission to deny such an application since the once-proposed site is not located on a designated “connector” street—one that could handle the traffic.
    The residents also called for written notice to affected neighbors, beyond that given by the city to residents within 300 feet of the boundary of a proposed school.
    Community Development Director Micah Austin said the once-proposed site in China Gardens would not be ruled out if a school returned for another application, since it is within one-quarter mile of a collector street.
    “Under that wording the site would not be ruled out,” Austin said. “I don’t think the city should call out against a school in any particular location. That would be like deed restricting. The standards should focus primarily on safety.”
    The P&Z agreed to preview all applications for their potential impact to residents, and to send public notice beyond the current 300-foot limit when deemed necessary.
    The commission gave Blaine County School District representatives assurances that the conditional-use permit would not apply to small changes and remodels on existing buildings.
    Representatives of the Sage School and Syringa Mountain School called for a reduction in parking requirements, from the current one per staff member, and one per every two seats of assembly-room seating capacity.
    Austin said he and City Attorney Ned Williamson would be working on ways to reduce the parking requirements, which could allow schools to utilize smaller building sites.
    Austin said in an interview that the city could use its clause for “shared parking” in city ordinance, which allows for some organizations to share existing parking spaces with other groups when they need parking for occasional events.
    Austin said such an arrangement exists between the Latter Day Saints Church in Hailey and the Rodeo Arena, providing ample parking for the Fourth of July weekend rodeo.
    “We don’t want to see wide swaths of asphalt that are used only a twice a year,” Austin said.

In other Hailey news:

  • lChateau Discount Outlet, represented by Ken Sangha, was granted a conditional-use permit to operate a wholesale distributorship at 960 Main St., on the condition that the owner include landscaping in the store design.

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