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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 1 - 7, 2003


Managing growth through annexation

Developers to pay for impacts

Express Staff Writer

Left with standing room only in the multi-purpose room of the Hailey Middle School, citizens addressed Hailey city leaders about a number of growth issues at a special town hall meeting Monday, Sept. 29.

Mayor Susan McBryant and South Central District Health septic system inspector Bob Erickson, also a Hailey resident, discuss the finer points of water quality at Hailey’s latest town hall meeting on growth and annexation. Express photo by Matt Furber

The focus of the meeting directed by Mayor Susan McBryant surrounded requests by developers for annexation and a list of questions about how the city should manage impacts on city services.

Common themes of the meeting surrounded water quality and quantity in the valley.

"It is an extremely valid concern and always needs to be in the foreground," said Hailey planning director Kathy Grotto.

Specifically addressing annexation in Hailey, citizens raised concerns about who would bear the burden of expanding city services. Some hoped affordable housing and job opportunities could be triggered by annexation.

County administrator and Hailey resident Deborah Vignes promoted downtown density within the city’s existing boundaries, a total of 3 square miles, saying it is important for business to create a critical mass to help everyone survive and bring businesses to the labor base.

"(I am) hesitant to see commercial expansion (in to annexed areas). It would be premature at this point," she said. "(I want) to see Hailey keep its small town feel. I would hate for it to become Anywhere, USA."

City officials were restricted from discussing specifics of filed annex applications at the meeting, but Mayor McBryant did say there were three active.

One is for 20 acres in south Woodside for a new elementary school, another is for 110 acres of the Justus Ranch off Broadford Road. A third is for 142 acres around the Cutter’s barn area east of Buttercup Road.

Other requests could come from other corners of the city’s boundaries, including Quigley Canyon, county land between the Northridge subdivision and State Highway 75, and land west of town up Croy Canyon, where Blaine Manor has proposed a new residential retirement facility.

Some inquiries have come from neighbors close in who are simply interested in sewer and water hook-ups, McBryant said.

Specific concerns included impact on the city’s water and sewer system, traffic increases, how annexation might impact the city’s business core, how the city can maintain its neighborhood feel and stay affordable for everyone.

"I’d like to see Hailey stay in the neighborhood thing ... It is why I live here," said fifth generation Hailey resident Robb Thomas, who raised concerns about impacts on Hailey’s water quality.

Thomas also expressed a common concern about affordability. He fears that he may be the last Thomas to live in the area.

"I’d like to figure out how my kids can stay here," he said.

Addressing water concerns, Hailey Public Works Manager Ray Hyde said following the meeting that the city could deliver safe drinking water with its treatment system. He said capacity is a moving target, but conservation helps and offering sewer services in place of septic systems is a benefit of annexation. It is feasible if citizens hooking up pay the costs of expansion.

"I can always work with capacity if I have the money," he said. "The goal is to do it so citizens on services are not paying for development."

Hailey resident and Bellevue city attorney Jim Phillips mirrored the sentiment with his comments.

"It is a bad idea for the city to annex without doing it on the dime of the developer," he said, recommending against any exceptions when developing city services. "Extending services without annexation is a mistake."

Other citizens pointed out that the city is operating from a position of strength. It has the authority to make any demand it wants from a planning standpoint. It can require impact fees not only for sewer and water, but it can also institute affordable housing, parking and open space requirements.

"(Land) to be annexed is governed by an annexation agreement," said Hailey city attorney Ned Williamson. "It is a flexible tool."

The law does not require annexation agreements, he said. But, they can be highly discretionary for a city council. It can help them find reasons to decide for and against approving annexation.

Some argued that providing affordable housing needs to be an incentive for development, for instance. Others argued that policing affordable housing was too difficult for cities.

Council members all agreed that development in any case would have to pay for itself. City planners addressed the obvious impact of growth on traffic.

"Traffic impact studies are required of all applicants," said city engineer Tom Hellen, who said the city has a grant to develop a master plan for traffic, which should be completed by 2006. "Traffic is the first thing (annexation applicants) better address."

Comments also came from open space advocate Dan Gilmore of the Wood River Land Trust.

"Annexation offers an opportunity to balance the future needs for the city and a desire for open space," he said. He cited the example of the Griffin Ranch exchange in the Bellevue triangle that allowed for more building density in exchange for contributions to provide public access to protected river front on the Howard property.



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