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For the week of March 19 - 25, 2003


Hailey residents divided over ‘bus barn’ plans

P&Z continues hearing after three-hours

Express Staff Writer

Visibly tired after nearly four hours of testimony, Hailey Planning and Zoning commissioners Monday gave no indication whether they might approve a proposal by the Blaine County School District to build a new bus storage and maintenance facility near Wood River High School.

P&Z Chairman Pat Cooley suspended a public hearing on the controversial plan after hearing comments from approximately 15 city residents and concerned citizens.

"There’s obviously more to this issue than one evening will allow," Cooley said.

P&Z commissioners subsequently tabled the controversial application to a future, unspecified date, noting that they do intend to take additional comments from the public.

The majority of speakers Monday expressed serious concern about noise and pollution that might be associated with the facility, though a contingent of supporters was vocal.

"Vote to deny this application, because of the overwhelming evidence against it," said Blue Lake Drive resident Cindy Ward.

At issue is a conditional-use permit application by the district to build a 30-stall bus storage structure and an adjacent maintenance and washing facility with four bays. However, the project must also gain approval for design review and an amendment to the school’s planned unit development agreement.

The proposed development would be located on an approximately 3.2-acre parcel annexed into the city last week as part of the General Residential zoning district. The parcel is located southeast of the Wood River campus, close to a residential neighborhood near Green Valley Drive.

Proceedings Monday began with district consultant John Gaeddert presenting a revised set of architectural plans for the facility to a crowd of 50 citizens in the Old County Courthouse.

Gaeddert was joined by a group of district officials including Jim Lewis, district superintendent, and Rand Peebles, attorney for the district.

Lewis told commissioners that the project would not be a liability to the city. "We’re not here to make our problem the city’s problem," he said.

Lewis said the district has made repeated efforts to improve the project and lessen its impact on the environment and nearby residents.

The new plan presented by district officials calls for a 9,300-square-foot maintenance facility to be built as an addition to the school’s Science Annex building, and a screened storage structure for up to 30 school buses to be located approximately 100 feet to the south.

The bus storage structure would be located in a designated avalanche zone, but would employ a high-angled concrete wall on its east side to dissipate the impact of an avalanche or mudslide, project representatives said.

"The essential question is, ‘Can these buildings and this use exist compatibly in the GR zone,’" Gaeddert said.

He said an average total of 84 bus trips would come and go from the site each day.

Planning Director Kathy Grotto said one of the main charges for the P&Z would be determining the level of an "acceptable" hazard. "Clearly, the operation of up to 30 buses will create noise and fumes and hazards," she said.

Former P&Z member Becki Keefer said the project would not comply with the city’s comprehensive plan. "It is not educational, it is not recreational, and it is not residential," she said.


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