Friday, March 14, 2014

Hailey P&Z debates new school rules

District official says parking criteria are too strict


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

The city of Hailey is reviewing changes to zoning laws for new schools. Express file photo

    The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission is awaiting a report by the Blaine County School District on the adequacy of existing parking lots for Hailey schools, before completing an ordinance change that would make new and expanded schools a conditional use in the city.
    The P&Z has been working with Hailey residents and School District leaders to develop laws to regulate the building of schools in the city, after a proposed charter school in China Gardens was met with strong resistance by neighbors in January.
    The commission voted Monday to add several criteria to a proposed change in the city’s zoning laws that would limit new and expanded schools as conditional uses only in the General Residential, Business, and Service Commercial Industrial zones.
    Under the proposed ordinance change, a conditional-use permit would be required of existing schools if they expand during one enrollment year by 50 percent, or 75 students, or “substantially increase intensity” by changing from one set of grade levels to another. The conditional-use permit would also be triggered if the “net area” of a school’s consistently used area were to be increased by 10 percent or more.
    Under the proposed conditional-use permit, a school applicant would have to provide an extensive traffic study completed by a licensed engineer, a school charter petition (if applicable) and other plans, all of which the commission was in support of Monday.
    Hailey residents from the China Gardens and Sherwood Forest neighborhoods were pleased when Community Development Director Micah Austin said another school application in China Gardens would not be allowed, due to 35 foot setbacks included in the proposed ordinance.
    “The school would not happen there,” Austin said.
    But parking requirements remain an outstanding issue.
    Under the proposed conditional-use permit, a school applicant would have to provide one parking space for every teacher or employee, or one space for every two seats in the school’s largest assembly area. Schools without assembly areas would have to provide one parking space per teacher or employee, or five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross area, whichever is greater.
    Blaine County School District Business Manager Mike Chatterton told the commission Monday that parking requirements within the proposed new ordinance would be too restrictive. He said a four-classroom expansion at Hailey Middle School would trigger the conditional-use permit, requiring an additional 300 parking spaces.
    “There goes all the play space,” Chatterton said.
    Chatterton said if the existing Hailey Middle School parking lots were measured under the proposed new ordinance, the school would be 70 parking spaces short of meeting the minimum requirement, even after using all public parking on city streets around the school.
    “And this would be for a school that has only staff drivers,” he said.
    Austin said the proposed 1:2 ratio of parking spaces to assembly seating is more restrictive than any he has studied in Idaho.
    “We have not seen any others as high as ours,” Austin said.
    Chatterton was asked to provide the commission with a report on the adequacy of current parking spaces for all Hailey schools, before holding another workshop on the proposed ordinance change, on April 14.    
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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