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P&Z recommends approval of high school PUD

Warning expressed about expected traffic increase

Express Staff Writer

A recommendation passed by the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission last week could mean higher rooftops and fewer parking spaces than would normally be required at a proposed new Wood River High School.

It could also mean up to 5,000 car trips a day to and from the high school campus if a proposed PUD requested by the school district is approved by the Hailey City Council.

P&Z chairwoman Becki Keefer made that estimate, and a warning, during the P&Z’s meeting Thursday, because, she said, she "wanted the school district to hear this. These are scary numbers." The district now has two recommendations from the P&Z before the city council-- passage of the PUD and annexation of the property the school would be built on.

The district is also seeking approval for its design review application, but a meeting on that has not been scheduled. Design review considers such things as traffic circulation, landscaping and parking associated with the project.

The annexation and PUD applications must be approved by the city council before construction on the school can begin. Project planner John Gaeddart told the P&Z he hoped for council approval at its meeting Aug. 13.

Keefer said that, so far, the P&Z has not heard much from the public about the traffic that will be going to the proposed new school.

Gaeddart said the current high school now serves 713 students. The population of the new high school is expected to be about 1,000 by 2003.

The existing school has 267 paved parking spaces and room for an additional 76 vehicles in unofficial, unpaved spaces. The new school would have about 600 paved spaces and 761 unpaved spaces.

The district is requesting fewer parking spaces in its PUD application, 1,361 versus 1,419.

Despite the reduction, the number of spaces aroused concern.

Keefer said that for every parking space, the road out of the high school campus, Fox Acres Road, could expect a car making two to four trips a day.

The P&Z added "traffic calming" features on the road as a condition of its recommendation for approval of the PUD. The 761 unpaved spaces would be on four overflow lots, which include the current practice soccer field. The P&Z placed a condition on its PUD recommendation that overflow parking on the soccer field be only once a year.

The PUD would also permit the school gymnasium to be 50 feet high. Maximum building height in Hailey is 35 feet.

Commissioner Pat Cooley asked the chief architect of the project, Scott Henson of Lomard-Conrad Architects of Boise, if excavation for the gym could be 10 feet deeper and thus lower its height. Project engineer Dave Cole of Benchmark Associates said he estimated it would cost $300,000 for each additional foot excavated.

Hearing that, District Superintendent Jim Lewis said "We’re not a private developer. We’re on a set budget, and those kinds of figures really make me nervous. "

In exchange for exemption from normal height restriction and number of parking spaces granted by the PUD, the district is required to grant some benefit to the city in return.

Lewis told the P&Z the city could expect public access to the school’s facilities. He said the public could use the gymnasium when classes are not in session, perhaps early in the morning.

He said another area where the proposed school would have dual use would be the common area, which would be large enough to hold conferences and allow food service.

Commissioner Carol Brown asked about common usable space, another benefit the commission expects from the PUD. School district attorney Rand Peebles responded that of the 90 acres that make up the campus, only 17 would be developed.

"I would urge you in your statement to the council that there is no need to ask for additional open space because we already have so much open space."

Still, the P&Z had questions about future building projects on the campus, concerned that the 73 acres of open space would dwindle.

But Peebles offered another argument why the school district should not be held to a requirement of providing open space—it is a public entity working with a finite budget for the benefit of the public. It could not afford to give up usable space by charging buyers more money, as private developers can.

The commission directed Hailey city attorney Susan Baker to review the open space issue. Additional open space requirements could be added as conditions to approval of the PUD.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.