The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission heard from a number of Sherwood Forest and China Gardens residents Monday during a workshop held to compile proposed conditional-use-permit criteria for schools in the city.
Schools—from kindergarten through high school—are currently a permitted use in the city. The proposed new ordinance change would make schools a conditional-use in the General Residential, Limited Business and Business zones.
“We are trying to meet the sweet spot between a permitted use and a prohibited use,” said City Attorney Ned Williamson to the attendees, many of whom were taken off guard by the Syringa Mountain School’s application last month to build in China Gardens.
The application was not approved for numerous reasons, including potential threats to public health and safety. Since that time, the city has been working with residents and school officials to identify the effects that new and expanded schools would have on neighborhoods.
“The Syringa School met all the check-list points [on the permit application] but was not comprehensive,” said Micah Austin, the city’s development director.
Austin and Williamson presented a draft ordinance that would make any new school construction, or existing schools that plan to increase enrollment or expand the size of the school buildings’ footprints, conditional uses.
Under the proposed ordinance, school parking requirements would be based on the number of teachers and staff members at the school, or based on the amount of total area covered by the school’s buildings, rather than on a previous formula related to the seating capacity of a school’s assembly areas.
“When there are no assembly areas [as was the case with the Syringa School application] parking is a hard thing to forecast,” Williamson said.
“We are trying to meet the sweet spot between a permitted use and a prohibited use.”
Several criteria were added to the list of criteria, based on suggestions from residents and city staff, including requirements for fencing, security measures, a pedestrian and bike plan, and a detailed site plan showing all proposed buildings on the site.
Residents have also recommended that the city require a business plan that proves financial feasibility for the new school.
“We don’t want to build a building half way and have it be abandoned,” Williamson said. “But you can’t deny it based on a bad business plan.”
Residents also requested that a new school be built only within 400 feet in the lane of travel from an existing “collector street,” larger and more heavily trafficked streets such as Woodside Boulevard and Myrtle Street in Hailey.
Former mayor and Sherwood Forest resident Susan McBryant called for more “buffer zones” between proposed school sites and residential neighborhoods, as well as site visits by the Hailey P&Z before making final decisions about a proposed school site.
“Schools are permanent. They are a huge part of our community,” she said. “There is nothing like walking a site to see what is going on.”
Sherwood Forest resident Rick Spaulding said there are plenty of areas outside of the city where a school could be built, without impacting existing neighborhoods, but that the expense of not hooking up to city services would make them cost-prohibitive.
“Somehow this becomes our problem,” Spaulding said. “The problem with schools in the city is that they are industrial uses in residential neighborhoods.”
Although no final determinations were made on the proposed new ordinance, P&Z Commission Chair Jay Cone said more workshops will be held before finalizing the conditional use criteria.
“We will continue to talk about this,” Cone said.
The next public hearing on schools will take place on March 10 at 6 p.m.
In other Hailey news:
- The Hailey P&Z will hold a public hearing to review the design of an ice-skating rink at the Wertheimer Park on March 10.
Tony Evans: email@example.com