14-10-29 Eccles Ranch 1F Roland

If approved by the county, Bellevue’s ACI ordinance will give the city more control over the land north of its current boundary.

After years of deliberations and negotiations, the Bellevue City Council approved a final area of city impact map and ordinance on Monday night, a step that paves the way for annexation of about 227 acres of ranch land currently between Bellevue and Hailey.

The ACI will now go to Blaine County for expected final approval as soon as next month.

“When we started these negotiations Hailey and Bellevue couldn’t have been farther apart,” said Community Development Director Diane Shay at a City Council meeting Monday. “We have come a long way. Bellevue would now be able to grow and annex land without the threat of litigation.”

ACI maps and ordinances are mechanisms that cities can use to have more input on adjacent county development than is otherwise provided under the county development process. They are also used to designate areas for possible annexation into the city.

The new map seemed unlikely as little as six years ago, when the Eccles family requested that the portion of its Flying Hat Ranch on the east side of Highway 75 be brought into Bellevue for commercial and residential development. The city of Hailey—as well as a significant portion of Bellevue citizens—pushed back strongly six years ago against what was deemed potentially inappropriate growth between the two towns.

The annexation request triggered a rewrite of the city’s comprehensive plan and the departure of several city leaders from office during an autumn election. Times have changed and all elected leaders now favor the new growth through annexation.

With momentum on its side, Bellevue sought in November to add three more parcels of private land on the west side of state Highway 75 into its ACI in the hope of gaining more influence over management of Friedman Memorial Airport.

The Blaine County board of commissioners pushed back, and instead recommended a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, between the county and Bellevue on potential development of those parcels, which include 38.5 acres adjacent to the city limits near Chantrelle subdivision, including 35 acres on the west side of state Highway 75 belonging to the Eccles family.

The MOU lays out areas that would trigger a “heightened notification and comment period” by the city if they were to be developed in the county.

Bellevue Mayor Ned Burns said he was “very happy” with nearly all of the provisions in the ACI and is ready to move forward.

“This is very nearly 100 percent of what we wanted,” Burns said.

Blaine County Commissioner Dick Fosbury, who attended the City Council meeting virtually on Monday, said the county “would be open” to discussing adding those additional parcels to the ACI in the future, after Bellevue and the county have worked out new zoning regulations for the area with regard to the airport.

Only City Councilwoman Tammy Davis voted against approving the ACI prior to the completion of annexation negotiations with the Eccles family. City Councilman Doug Brown voted for the ACI begrudgingly, apparently unhappy with the county’s exclusion of the west side parcels, which he described as “airport overreach” that could restrict the development of housing.

City Councilman Chris Johnson said the ACI negotiations have shown that Bellevue should have a seat on the Friedman Memorial Airport board of directors.

Eccles family attorney Evan Robertson also objected to the MOU, saying there are issues regarding how the land would be “zoned in certain ways.” Robertson said he would raise his objections with county representatives next month.

Meanwhile, the city of Hailey has also finalized an ACI of its own. The county will review the two documents together on Feb. 23.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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