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Wednesday, May 5, 2004


Rec Board stands up for ‘moment of truth’

Quigley development plan advances to Hailey Council

Express Staff Writer

Summer duffers eager to tee-off in Quigley Canyon may have cause to raise their hopes a notch. Nordic skiers already are touting the winter attractions of the canyon east of Hailey.

The Blaine County Recreation District board of directors voted last week to enter into an agreement with owners of Quigley Canyon Ranch to apply jointly to the City of Hailey for annexation.

Excitement about a golf course that would double as a modern Nordic skiing trail system tipped the scale in favor of the project, said Board President Keith Perry. It’s been a long road to this point, Perry added, noting that he’s been working with the recreation district since the inception of the idea for a Quigley Canyon golf course seven years ago.

The board framed the meeting Thursday, April 29, at Wood River High School as "a moment of truth" on whether or not to put any more energy into a plan for an 18-hole public golf course on donated land. If the course is built, the recreation district will manage it.

It was time either to accept the terms of the property owners or walk away, said board member Tim Hamilton.

The agreement with Quigley Canyon Ranch owners Fred Judd, his son Clay Judd, and Stoney Burke requires a joint annexation application to be filed with the city of Hailey for annexation within 60 days or the agreement becomes null and void.

The ranch property runs six miles up the canyon. The proposal is for development of about 860 acres at the head of the canyon. Of the developable acreage (much of the land is on the hillside), 212 acres would be donated to the recreation district for the golf course that would double as a Nordic system in winter.

Sufficient water rights to maintain the golf course would also be donated. The ranch owners would reserve the remaining land for housing development, said John Gaeddert, who represented the owners at the meeting.

If the parcel is approved for annexation, housing development plans would be considered under the typical Hailey Planning and Zoning and City Council review process. An annexation agreement would determine zoning specifications.

The agreement between the ranch owners and the recreation district says that 2 percent of first time home sales will go to the recreation district’s bottom line.

Several members of the public said they though the recreation district should have negotiated for more from the ranch owners.

Hamilton said the deal was the best the recreation district could expect to get considering the years of negotiation that preceded the vote Thursday.

"I think people underestimate how much the percentage of home sales will bring," Perry said.

Some members of the public expressed concern that the ranch owners are using the reputation of the recreation district as a vehicle for annexation into the city, thereby maximizing the return on their investment.

Perry questioned whether any other group could negotiate a better public benefit on privately held land. He also tried to allay concerns that tee time preferences for homeowners and major donors for the project would restrict public access.

Homeowners and donors may be allowed to make tee time reservations 10 days in advance, whereas the public would be granted reservations seven days before playing, Perry said.

Although a minority opinion at the meeting, others wondered if the land couldn’t simply be reserved as open space.

A conservation land use model was considered in the mid-1990s, Gaeddert said.

"When we were first approached by the committee for the recreation district, a number of people came up with (ideas) for preserving open space," Gaeddert said.

The owners asked the community to show their interest in open space by raising the money and preserve it in a trust, he said. "No one showed up with the money."

Burke has put together a number of land trust deals to protect historic ranches and open space. He was instrumental in establishing the Silver Creek Preserve near Picabo.

"If anyone were to go there, it would be these guys," Gaeddert said. "Now it’s just worth too much."

Gaeddert estimated that in the mid-1990s the property was worth about $20 million.

For the golf course project the recreation district needs to raise $7 million for construction projects, including the greens, a clubhouse to double as a Nordic center, maintenance facilities, employee housing, a bike path and hiking trails. That fundraising campaign is contingent on annexation approval.

Part of the agreement includes the recreation district completing a fiscal impact study.

An initial fundraising effort is also required to cover planning costs, such as feasibility, fiscal impact and traffic studies. Money for a project manager also needs to be raised, Perry said.

"I will meet with owners tomorrow to get the annexation application moving," Gaeddert said Tuesday.


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