Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hailey goes back to drawing board

City grapples once more with school parking issue

Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission has sent city staff back to the drawing board to establish parking requirements for new and expanded schools.
    The P&Z has been working since February to establish conditional-use criteria for schools in the General Residential, Business and Limited Business zones. A proposed amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance would add schools as conditional uses in the city’s two Service Commercial Industrial zones.
    Many issues regarding siting, noticing and safety have been resolved. The commission sought input from the Blaine County School District on the adequacy of parking spaces at schools, based on current requirements.
    The city now requires schools to provide one parking space for every five students and one for each teacher and/or employee, or one space for every two seats in all assembly areas, whichever is greater.
    “We found that that not a single school in Hailey is compliant,” Community Development Director Micah Austin said. “However, it’s working just fine.”
    Austin said automobiles are parked on fields for the single biggest event each year, high school graduation.
    Under the proposed new conditional-use permit, schools without assembly areas, such as the Syringa Mountain School, which was proposed for China Gardens in February, would have to provide one parking space per teacher or employee, or five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross area, whichever is greater.
    New schools, or those expanding beyond 10 percent of gross area, would trigger the conditional-use permit.
    Austin recommended requiring new or expanded schools to provide one space per eight seats in the largest assembly area. He said that would bring schools into compliance with parking requirements but help the city avoid building a “sea of asphalt” whenever a school is built or expanded.
     The commission discussed changing the ratio from one space per eight seats to one per six seats, but School District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said dropping the ratio by two seats would require him to increase parking by 25 percent if the high school is expanded.
    Commissioner Jay Cone said the district is a “different beast” than small private schools that could be built in the General Residential and Limited Business zones and “cause a nuisance.”    
    The P&Z voted to instruct Austin and City Attorney Ned Williamson to brainstorm to find new criteria that would pertain to the specific needs for school parking based on the number of and size of assemblies, or some new criteria.
    “We’ll be going back to scratch, but that’s OK,” Williamson said.

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