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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 17 - 23, 2003


Proceed with caution

It may be the season of giving, but the valley’s cities shouldn’t get carried away.

Both Hailey and Ketchum are being asked to participate in development of private land. "Caution" should be their watchword.



The Hailey City Council was rightly non-committal last week when asked if the city would enter into a "cooperative agreement" with developers of a subdivision and 18-hole public golf course proposed for Quigley Canyon.

Developers of the subdivision soon may come before the city to request annexation of 1,300 acres, including 225 to 250 homes and the golf course.

The details of the developers’ request for the cooperative agreement were notably vague.

To complicate the city’s deliberations, the Blaine County Recreation District is looking to the development to swell its coffers. The district seems to have become a proponent of the development, and the attraction is plain to see. Plans call for 2 percent of housing sales to go to support district recreation. Planners also estimate the golf course will generate $2.3 million annually within 10 years—cash they say could be used to fund county recreation programs.

While the projections look rosy, the Hailey City Council has to answer some hard questions before even thinking about annexation or participation in the project.

The city needs to determine the cost/benefit ratio for annexation. In other words, will taxes and other fees generated by the development pay for the water, sewer, fire, police, and street services the city will be obligated to provide if the property is annexed?

Other questions that need answering include 1) Will annexation mean higher densities and greater sales revenue for the project than it could realize if it remained in the county? 2) Will the development provide a mix of permanently affordable housing? 3) Given that the golf market nationwide is glutted with courses, will the public course pay for itself? Or, could the public find itself footing the bill for a golf course that does more for the value of private home sites and golf enthusiasts than it does for the public?

Finally, Hailey must reconcile any decision to annex with the public’s last referendum recommendation that the city not annex additional property until existing vacant properties within the city are developed.



Ketchum should proceed with caution as it reviews a proposal for development of a large hunk of property on Second Avenue known as the Simplot Property.

City leaders have made their wishes for a new City Hall well known, but they shouldn’t let their lust for a shiny new building cloud their fiscal judgement.

Developers have called on the city to vacate a city street that bisects the property. At the same time, they have called upon the city to buy a portion of the property for a new City Hall, which would not incorporate the fire department.

Before vacating any city street, the city should have a compelling reason, one that benefits the public significantly.

The city must put aside its desire for a new City Hall while it decides whether or not an undivided square of developed property will make the city more or less user friendly.

Developers are holding out public open space as a carrot to attract the city to their way of thinking. Like Hailey, the city must ensure that public space is truly public space—useable and accessible to the public in more than name only.

Development of the parcel will place another problem on the city’s plate. Development of the Simplot property and the city’s park and ride lot on Warm Springs will leave the city with little or no property for winter snow storage. The city stores snow on both properties every winter.

The problem has been looming on the horizon for years, but the city elected to do nothing until the problem becomes acute.

Acute it will be. The city needs to look at forging agreements with the BLM or the Forest Service for snow storage on nearby public lands—before it begins any horse-trading on a street vacation. Or, it needs to identify property it can buy.

Ketchum needs to calculate how much more it will cost to truck snow to outlying areas. Or, how much it will cost to purchase property for snow storage. It also needs to include money to clean up storage sites that are filled with winter’s refuse when the snow melts every year. The price tag could be surprising.

Both the Simplot and golf course projects could turn out to be important and attractive additions to our towns.

The valley may need another golf course, especially a public course. The Simplot Property, if developed properly, could enhance life in Ketchum.

Developers of both projects have a long way to go to prove to the public that benefits will outweigh the costs to each community. Hailey and Ketchum leaders must insist on it.



City of Ketchum

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