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For the week of May 9 through May 15, 2001

Artist’s Drawing courtesy of Blaine County School District.

Bus barn construction plans advance

School district would donate land in ‘flow through’ pact

"It truly shows people that we are not in the wetlands" 

Blaine County School District superintendent Jim Lewis said of the district’s preliminary Croy Road plans.

Express Staff Writer

To acquire just the 10 acres of land it needs to build a bus barn in Croy Canyon, the Blaine County School District intends to buy 25 acres from Boise resident William Simmons and then donate 15 of that to the Wood River Land Trust in a "flow through" agreement.

Under the agreement, Simmons would sell the 25 acres to the district for $262,000, the estimated value of just the 10 acres the district plans to use, school district superintendent Jim Lewis said Friday. In exchange for the discount, the district must agree to donate the remaining 15 acres to the Land Trust to be preserved for the "public good," the sales agreement states.

"Anybody who thinks the public is getting taken to the cleaners is wrong," Lewis said, commenting on critics’ accusations that schools are using public funds to purchase land that would be donated to a private organization.

Lewis said the district must buy the entire 25 acres, rather than just the 10 acres it needs, because land-use rules would not allow the property to be subdivided for the sale.

Any tax benefit available for donating the property to the Land Trust would go to Simmons, Lewis said, not to the district.

Simmons and the district have formally agreed to the sale with the condition that the district is able to go through with its construction plans. If those plans fail, the sale is off.

The district has released initial site drawings for its proposed bus maintenance facility, which show the district and the city of Hailey would share a single entrance to the area but build different facilities on individually owned property.

Whether the plans go forward would involve getting approval from the county planning department. The area is zoned for residences, but a rezone of the area is unlikely since Idaho law allows schools to build in residential neighborhoods.

Hailey Mayor Brad Siemer said he doesn’t believe the proposed maintenance facilities would encourage further light industrial development in Croy Canyon.

"One zone does not establish a precedent for other similar zoning situations," he said.

It is not yet clear whether the county planning department would require any public hearing, which would allow public comment. Lewis said, however, that the district plans to hold two special public meetings in the next month as a "chance to have intelligent discussion" of the issue. The meetings have not been scheduled.

Both the district and Hailey may also need to get a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work in the wetlands. Hailey city engineer Tom Hellen said that’s because the current access road to Lion’s Park would likely need to be moved slightly to the west of its current location, and some existing cottonwood trees near Croy Road would be "disturbed."

With the exception of the trees, Lewis said, "as near as we can tell, we’re avoiding the wetlands."

Responding to criticism from neighbors, Lewis said, "If it’s just because we have neighbors who are against growth, I understand that." But when plans for Wood River Middle School were announced, the district had complaints, he said. When plans for the new high school were announced, again there were complaints. When the district recently mentioned building an elementary school in Woodside, neighbors complained.

"The only side of town we haven’t touched is the west side. But you know, it’s part of the community’s growing and providing for the kids."

The district and Hailey are jointly designing the facilities. The district hopes to have its construction completed in about 18 months.


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