Friday, August 29, 2014

Bellevue goes to work on Eccles annexation agreement

Hailey mayor calls for town hall meeting to discuss potential impacts

Express Staff Writer

Cattle graze Wednesday on the Eccles Ranch on the east side of state Highway 75 north of Bellevue. The agricultural land between Hailey and Bellevue could be annexed into Bellevue for residential and commercial development. Photo by Roland Lane

    Following a 3-to-1 decision by the Bellevue Planning and Zoning Commission last month to recommend annexation of 227 acres north of the city, another year may pass before the matter is addressed by the City Council.
    In the meantime, the city of Hailey is voicing its opposition.
    The parcel, part of the Eccles family’s Flying Hat Ranch, makes up all of the land along the east side of state Highway 75 between Bellevue and Hailey.
    Bellevue Planning Director Craig Eckles will now go to work with consultants and representatives of the Eccles family to determine how those acres could be developed, and set an appropriate annexation fee to cover the cost of providing city services, including sewer, water and streets for the new development. Eckles is not related to the applicants.
    A draft of the annexation agreement will then be presented to the Bellevue City Council for approval.
    “There are big issues associated with Bellevue’s growth and what Bellevue will look like. This could take a year,” City Attorney Rick Allington said.
    As now proposed, the annexation would include 43 acres of Residential zoning, both at the southern edge of Bellevue and away from the highway to the east on a hillside.
    The northern end of the proposed annexation would be composed of 28 acres of Light Industrial zoning, alongside existing LI zoning in Woodside at the southern end of Hailey, and 14 acres of Light Industrial-Mixed Business zoning at the entrance to the city.
    Thirty-two acres of mixed-use zoning would buffer neighborhoods from the commercial areas.
    On Monday, Eckles included in the findings of fact associated with the P&Z’s annexation recommendation a value of all of the city’s property compiled by the Blaine County Assessor’s Office. The full market value is about $200 million, with a net taxable value of $164 million.
    The annexation fee formula will likely include the city’s current property values, compared with the projected increase in taxable property brought in by the new development.
    The county reports that Bellevue has 244 acres of vacant residential property, and 257 acres of developed residential lots. The city has 23 acres of vacant commercial property, and 67 acres of developed commercial lots.
    Several Bellevue residents, and two former mayors, cautioned the council last month about moving forward without demanding more detail from the developer.
    “We spent four years vetting a developer,” said former City Councilman Jon Wilkes. “If you move quickly, you will create a lot of anguish with this.”
    An equal number of people spoke in favor of moving forward, saying the new commercial property could provide a boon to the city.
    “This valley is not going to survive unless we get good growth,” said Bellevue resident and businessman Brad Baker.
    Hailey officials have stated that the inclusion of large commercial lots within the proposed annexation could reduce property values in other parts of the Wood River Valley.
    Hailey Mayor Fritz Haemmerle has criticized the Bellevue City Council for excluding Hailey leaders from participation in the annexation review process.
    Haemmerle scheduled a town hall meeting to discuss the annexation on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Wood River High School Distance Learning Lab.
    Hailey Community Development Director Micah Austin said a list of the city’s recommendations to Bellevue will be presented, followed by public comment.
    “The recommendations address basic land-use-planning considerations,” Austin said. “Such as potential economic impacts to Bellevue and Hailey, potential impacts to hillsides, and planning for safety along the existing Wood River Trail bike path.”
    Austin said the recommendations also emphasize the comprehensive plans of both cities, which call for retaining “visual corridors” of undeveloped land between the two cities.
    Austin said he is in contact with Eckles, who has agreed to receive the recommendations.
    “The city of Hailey has formally invited the city of Bellevue and the Eccles development team to attend the town hall meeting,” Austin said.

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