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For the week of January 14 - 20, 2004


Avalanche threat,
floods could thwart
annexation plan

Transfer of development rights
proposed as solution

Express Staff Writer

Potential avalanches, floods and traffic impacts on neighbors were subjects of concern raised Monday, Jan. 12, by citizens addressing the Hailey City Council on an application for annexation of the Justus Ranch.

The 180-acre parcel is private land in the county that includes a section of the floodplain along the Big Wood River, south of Hailey near Colorado Gulch between Broadford Road and the river.

The council did not make any comment on the application submitted by Jeff Pfaeffle, who made a presentation about a development that would be called Colorado Gulch Preserve. Review was continued until a council meeting on Feb. 9. Public comment was also continued, as was time for the applicant to respond to criticism that was heard.

Pfaeffle and his representatives reviewed impacts and benefits the project could have for Hailey and for future residents. Consultants presented a plan they said was sensitive to the dynamics of the river corridor and the fragile nature of the riparian environment. The project would help protect the river and groundwater because development on the land, if annexed, could make use of city infrastructure like sewer lines that would preclude the risks associated with septic systems used on county land. Public access to the river would also be provided, but privately maintained.

The project is for several dozen homes on 1- to 5-acre lots. Pfaeffle said it would provide an economic boost to the urban core, because it would attract people who are looking for a home with a rural feel that is close to the city.

Consultants made brief presentations addressing traffic and ecological concerns.

Citizens for Smart Growth representative Christopher Simms, of Hailey, asked whether the traffic study presented for the application was sufficient for the scope and impact of the project.

Doug Abromeit, director of the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center in Ketchum and a Hailey resident, questioned the applicant’s consideration of the avalanche risk posed by Della Mountain across the river from the development.

The opinion of Chuck Brockway, the engineer for the project who presented a flood and avalanche study, was that from January to March a sizeable avalanche could close the river and cause limited flooding into a channel to the east of the main river. But, he said, such an event would present little risk to homeowners.

Abromeit said the avalanche risk in a high snow year could extend into April and May and could pose a substantially higher risk because a slide in warmer conditions could be bigger and the river could be running higher.

Scott Boettger and Stephan Fraenzle of the Wood River Land Trust, both Hailey residents, spoke against the project as presented. But, they would support development on portions of the property at the highest elevations on the parcel. They advocated a transfer of development rights component to the project that would help protect the more sensitive areas and provide more open space for the city.

A transfer of development rights involves an agreement between a landowner and a city that protects sensitive ecological areas and a developer’s financial interests. The program gives the developer opportunity to build with more density in less sensitive areas.

Pfaeffle said he looks to the February meeting as an opportunity to present more information and further address issues raised by the community.



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