Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Petition to vote on Cutters appeal fails

Voters won’t weigh in on dispute over annexation fees

Express Staff Writer

Old Cutters subdivision is on the east side of Hailey, just north of Quigley Canyon. Express file photo

    A Hailey referendum petition has failed to secure enough voter signatures to place it on the November ballot.
    Had it succeeded, Hailey voters would have been asked whether the city should continue to appeal a federal district court decision that denied it $2.5 million in annexation fees that were to be paid by the developer of the Old Cutters subdivision.
Hailey metal worker Bob Wiederrick turned in the petition to Blaine County election officials last week with 214 signatures.
Wiederrick needed 177 signatures of qualified Hailey voters to get the issue on the ballot. But county election officials verified that just 153 of the signatures were from voters registered in Hailey.
    “I thought I had it in the bag, but I did not,” Wiederrick said.
    U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Jim D. Pappas ruled in 2012 that Hailey’s annexation fee of $3.8 million, included in a 2006 agreement, was “unquestionably in excess of” that required to compensate the city for actual costs resulting from the annexation of Old Cutters subdivision, on the east side of the city.
    Old Cutters had paid $1.3 million in annexation fees to the city, none of which developer John Campbell sought to be refunded.
    Pappas prohibited Hailey from collecting any more money from Old Cutters and ordered the city to reimburse Campbell for about $100,000 in legal fees.
    Hailey’s attorney Keith Roark mounted an unsuccessful appeal of the bankruptcy court’s ruling in 2013, which ended when U.S. District Court Judge Edward J. Lodge reaffirmed that the city had illegally required the fees.
    In his decision, Lodge cited negotiations that ran from 2003 to 2006, between the city and Campbell, during which time proposed annexation fees rose from $350,000 to nearly $3.8 million.
    “It is thus unclear whether Old Cutters actually voluntarily consented, or was in fact financially compelled to consent to the annexation agreement,” Lodge wrote.
    In May, the city decided to appeal Lodge’s ruling to the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. No date has been set for a ruling.
    Wiederrick said he is considering starting a new petition for the May election, calling for an end to the appeal.
    “I will have to start over,” he said.

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