Friday, July 18, 2014

Life Church breaks ground near Hailey

City wants plan to meet its standards

Express Staff Writer

The Life Church has broken ground on a new church near Hailey. Photo by Roland Lane

     The Life Church has finally broken ground on construction of an 8,680-square-foot church complex north of Albertsons grocery store in Hailey. The project will be completed sometime next spring, ending an arduous process to make a permanent home for the Life Church congregation. 

     “We are so excited that this project is started,” said Life Church Pastor Michael Hendricks. “We have waited 17 years."

     The church—which is being developed in Blaine County—will have a roof height of 33 feet, and will feature an extensive sanctuary, four classrooms, a kitchen and three offices. The development will have 51 parking spaces and be accessed by a gravel driveway connecting to McKercher Boulevard.

     From 1992 to 2011, the Life Church met on Main Street in Hailey, before moving to an old church building on Snowbank Drive in Woodside subdivision to make room for more followers.

     “We have been running out of room for 10 years,” said Hendricks, who gathers an English-speaking congregation of 120 people each Sunday, followed by a Spanish-speaking congregation of 60.

     The church’s name has changed over the years, from Valley Chapel, to Valley Christian Fellowship, to The Life Church.

     “We are non-denominational, providing a contemporary feel with foundational principles. We have a lead guitar, keyboard and drummers. We do hymns, but the majority of our music is songs for today,” Hendricks said.

     The church will be located on 4.16 acres of partially wooded land about 150 yards from state Highway 75. Life Church land-use planner Deborah Vignes said about two acres of land fronting the highway would remain vacant.

     “There are no plans now to develop that area,” Vignes said. “The church could develop that property at some time in the future, or sell it.”              

     The Blaine County Commission will hold a public hearing on Aug. 5 to consider an application by The Life Church to subdivide the two acres on Highway 75, from the 4.16 acres where the church is being built.

     Another four-acre parcel of land belonging to the church, located west of Albertsons grocery store and extending to Marketron on River Street, will also remain undeveloped for the time being, said Vignes.

     In 2007, the church requested annexation of the entire 10 acres bordering McKercher Boulevard and River Street into the city of Hailey. The proposal met with stiff opposition from neighboring landowners. The church then pursued a successful plan to build in the county.

Will Area of City Impact ordinance lose its impact?

Although the city of Hailey and Blaine County have an Area of City Impact ordinance that allows the city to influence subdivision developments in the county on the outskirts of town, it is yet to be seen if The Life Church will, or should, concede to the city’s recommendations.

                The 2000 Idaho Supreme Court “Blaha decision” gives the power to approve subdivision applications in the impact area “exclusively” to the county.

                “It is basically null and void,” said Hailey Planning and Zoning Commissioner Dan Smith on Monday, while the P&Z Commission was reviewing a planned subdivision of about six acres at the north end of town.

                “We need to re-engage the county over an ACI discussion,” said City Attorney Ned Williamson in an interview. “The ACI law is very well-intentioned, but extremely difficult to implement.”

                Williamson said it could take some time for the city and county to work out a new agreement that both accommodates the Blaha restrictions on municipal zoning authority and allows the county and city to work together to control developments near city limits.

                The Hailey P&Z Commission made a recommendation Monday to Blaine County that it require the church infrastructure to be built according to city street standards, that it extend an easement for River Street heading north, and keep McKercher Boulevard at city standard-width as it continues into the planned development.

                “We will see if they take this into account,” Williamson said. “We can only recommend. The county has to decide.”

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