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Wednesday, July 14, 2004


Ketchum developer Jeff Pfaeffle was handed a denial on his annexation application Monday, by the Hailey City Council as part of an annexation application in favor of bringing property in the county known as the Justus Ranch into the city. Extending city limits along Broadford Road, the development to be called "Colorado Gulch Preserve," would have brought 180 acres into the city with about 65 residential lots and three-quarters of a mile of public access on the Big Wood River linked to Heagle Park and Colorado Gulch Road.

Ranch annexation denied by Hailey

Riverfront future passed to county by city council

Express Staff Writer

After brief deliberation, the Hailey City Council denied the application of Justus Ranch developers for annexation of riverfront property into the city of Hailey. The property is located west of Broadford Road and Airport West.

A panel of advocates for Jeff Pfaeffle, the project leader, presented a plan for 65 residential building lots and a riparian access corridor to be called Colorado Gulch Preserve. The plan included a gift of a public easement to the community of about three-quarters of a mile of property fronting the Big Wood River south of Heagle Park in Hailey.

However, complexities surrounding the project caused the council to balk at the challenge set by the developer. Problems included a letter from Blaine County Commissioners stating that much of the land in the proposed application was outside of Hailey’s agreed upon "area of impact" and therefore ineligible for annexation.

Wood River Land Trust Executive Director Scott Boettger said the application created a dilemma for his organization. Though the organization would like to see river access protected for the community, "... because of the extent of development being proposed in the floodplain, wetlands and riparian corridor we can not support this application as shown."

City councilwoman Martha Burke seconded Boettger’s comments and explained that it was difficult for her to deny the application.

"It’s hard to turn down such a gem," she said, hinting at the dilemma for the city. "The reason we are here is ... a desire to protect that corridor and access. The very fact that it took some very skilled people (to put the project together) leads me to believe it is not to be subdivided in the city."

Burke said, however, she supported plans for community housing and that the engineers supporting Pfaeffle made an excellent presentation. Boettger said that although he would like to see less development near the river, he did support the density concept laid out by the developer.

Mayor Susan McBryant asked the council and public to focus comment on the overall appropriateness of the project for annexation into the city. The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission would evaluate details about the layout of the project if annexation were accepted, she said.

However, the council decided not to pursue the issue any further.

"I am really disappointed that this goal to partner up to develop the river corridor isn’t possible," Pfaeffle said. "I was surprised at the haste of the decision given (Mayor Susan McBryant’s) admonishment to consider the information they were given."

City Councilman Don Keirn said county zoning was likely the best protection for the property and voiced concern that the complexity of managing ground water seepage on the property could cause problems for the city in the future.

Keirn said if he bought property in the subdivision and it suddenly had standing water on it he would "raise hell with somebody, and I would start with the guy that sold me the property."

Engineers for Pfaeffle seemed confident that they could engineer solutions to the hydrological complexities of the property located in the flood plain, which according to the their review is not as susceptible to flood related problems as the Della View subdivision where homes are located directly in the flood way.

"I would hope in a year’s time all this material could be fully digested and the city would try to pull up their sleeves," Pfaeffle said.

Pfaeffle added that the application could have been moved in a similar direction to an application submitted for annexation by Cutter’s Ranch developers northeast of Hailey, which is currently being reviewed by the Planning and Zoning Commission.

"I feel that the river offer is certainly more valuable than anything else the city is considering," Pfaeffle said. "I am surprised the council is not ready to look more deeply into the possibility of connecting Colorado Gulch with Heagle Park without a real try."

City Councilman Rick Davis said one of the elements of the application missing for him was a fiscal impact study of the project and the possibility that three other properties could be facing the possibility of forced annexation as a result.

Pfaeffle said he did sympathize with the challenges of development pressure currently facing the city, seconding comments made by Justus Ranch neighbor, and avalanche forecaster Doug Abromeit, who listed several points that needed to be addressed for him to support the project.

"I urge the city to postpone consideration until a definitive annexation policy is complete (to) give us all a road map to follow," Abromeit said. "I applaud the initial step towards a good development."

Abromeit added that there is much work to be done in designing an appropriate development, especially where water is concerned.

"Following a heavy snow year, the only dry areas are the very high areas," he said.

The Justus Ranch property has an irrigation canal running through the lower portion of the property near the river. Architect Richard Emik designed the initial concept for the property, which commits development to the higher portions of the property with building envelopes outside sensitive flood plain areas.

"The possibility really was through the annexation, Pfaeffle said. "I’m proud of the effort we put into this. We made a big effort on behalf of the community ... maybe in the future once the city irons out its annexation procedures something can occur."


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