For the week of August 26 thru September 1, 1998  

Blaine County Housing Authority drops East Fork project

Express Staff Writer

High risks and higher costs inspired the Blaine County Housing Authority to give an East Fork affordable housing concept the boot Monday.

"It would be fairly risky even for private developers. For a foundation using public money, the comfort level isn’t there," housing coordinator Karl Fulmer said Monday.

Much to the chagrin of many neighbors organized as the East Fork Preservation Group, the authority had held an option to purchase 7.5 acres at the mouth of East Fork canyon jointly with the Boise-based nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services for development.

Together, the groups have alternated making several-thousand dollar payments to cover the option.

As of Monday, they "determined that the option on the property will not be continued," Fulmer stated.

Both groups envisioned between 35 and 45 homes priced from $74,000 to $135,000 on the land south of Ketchum and east of State Highway 75.

However, an expensive $400,000 price to install potable water, waste water treatment and fire protection systems at the site was deemed too costly, Fulmer stated.

These water system and other infrastructure costs, related to fire protection and roads, exceeded "original estimates provided by engineering firms," according to Fulmer.

"Significant" amounts of grant money would have to be immediately sought to cover these higher expenses.

Fulmer stated the authority and its Boise partner "felt that the timing for grant applications would not work for site development during the summer of 1999." The groups saw that summer as a necessary development time.

Also grabbing at the project’s heels were county policy-related hindrances.

A community housing planned unit development ordinance, which the authority has already penned, would have needed a fast-track to approval by county officials, which was "unrealistic," Fulmer stated.

Fulmer has said he does not expect an ordinance to be passed before the end of the year, and the Blaine County Planning Department dockets are too full to schedule any hearings on the "low priority" matter.

No ordinance means no avenue for the project to proceed with financing and grant applications to purchase the land.

"Without the ordinance in place, application for necessary grant monies and low-interest loans is not feasible," Fulmer stated.

Finally, summer of 2000 expansion plans for the stretch of State Highway 75 crossing East Fork Road should coincide with site development for public safety reasons, Fulmer stated.

"I think it’s unfortunate we had to make this decision, but it’s the only decision we could make," Fulmer said.


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