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For the week of Dec. 15, 1999 through Dec. 21, 1999

Public shut out of golf course agreement

The Blaine County Recreation District ignored its obligation to taxpayers last week when it signed an agreement to construct a public golf course on property to be donated by developers in Quigley Canyon east of Hailey.

The agreement—which is basically an agreement of intent as opposed to a final binding agreement—emerged full-blown from closed-door negotiations between district representatives and the developers. It was inked before anyone in the public had a chance to say anything about it.

The agreement was negotiated behind closed doors because it involved land acquisition. Such closed-door negotiations are legal in Idaho when public agencies are working on acquiring property.

However, Idaho law also says the agreements must be finalized in public.

The agreement says the recreation district will construct an 18-hole golf course, a pitch-and-putt course, a clubhouse, a maintenance building, employee housing and a bike path. It says the district will operate a fishing program for kids on a lake at the site and coordinate winter Nordic skiing on the course. The agreement says the rec district will do all of this—if it can find the $6 million necessary to do so.

The agreement is also contingent upon annexation and approval of the development by the city of Hailey.

District administrator Mary Austin Crofts says the district’s obligation to the public was met when the agreement was inked in an open scheduled meeting of the recreation district board of directors.

We disagree.

The agreement first was released to the public at the same meeting in which it was signed. The district did not hold a public hearing on the agreement. The recreation district’s agenda for the meeting said only that the terms of the Quigley Canyon Ranch agreement would be discussed. It did not say the district’s board would sign it.

Despite the fact that the concept for the private development and public golf course has been floating around for a couple of years, despite the fact that the district consulted residents near the site about the concept, signing the agreement occurred much too fast. No one outside of the district’s board of directors, an advisory committee that is keen on getting a public golf course built, and the developers got to review the agreement before the meeting.

The time for signing an agreement of this magnitude between a public agency and a private party is after public review—not before. The district should revoke the agreement, hold a proper public hearing and incorporate public concerns in any agreement it chooses to sign.

Doing less will leave the project under a cloud—not a good thing if taxpayers are to be asked to spend $6 million.


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