Flying Heart Ranch

Eccles Flying Heart Ranch remains central to debate over area of city impact for both Hailey and Bellevue.

Though the cities of Hailey and Bellevue came closer to an agreement regarding their area-of-city-impact (ACI) maps during a Blaine County Board of Commissioners hearing last month, questions remain as to how more than 200 acres of farmland between both jurisdictions will be used.

Earlier this summer, drafts of both cities’ ACI boundaries—used to designate areas for possible annexation—overlapped on the 227-acre Eccles Flying Hat Ranch. The Eccles family, however, has requested that their entire property be annexed into Bellevue, and in late July the city of Hailey was advised by the County Planning and Zoning Commission to remove all Eccles land from its ACI map.

On Sept. 22, during the most recent ACI hearing, the county commissioners also recommended that Bellevue remove Eccles land from its ACI map on the west side of the highway directly south of the airport, instead putting that area on hold for future deliberation. However, Bellevue spokesperson David Patrie, a consultant with Sawtooth Strategies hired by the city, argued at that hearing that the western portion of Eccles Flying Hat Ranch should be annexed into Bellevue per the wishes of the property owners.

Ultimately, Patrie said, Bellevue needs to expand its borders to increase its tax base and thrive as a municipality. Bellevue’s city center is 0.1 mile away from the eastern portion of the Eccles property, whereas Hailey’s city center is 3.5 miles away, he said.

“It’s pretty clear that Bellevue’s city street grid is set up quite nicely to access the [Eccles] property,” Patrie said.

Bellevue has only two acres of developable land remaining in its light-industrial zone, he added.

“Bellevue has no [light industrial] land to develop. Cityside, only 16 percent of land is undeveloped—we’re getting close to full buildout,” Patrie said.  

Following Patrie’s presentation, Hailey Mayor Martha Burke touched on the need for each city to remain isolated from the other without any continuous sprawl. Burke acknowledged that the Eccles family had previously asked to be annexed into Hailey, but said the reasons for their reversal in plans were “not germane.”

“I respect that the landowner chooses to be in Bellevue,” she said. “I feel very strongly that if we support Bellevue’s growth, development and planning, it will benefit not just Bellevue, but Hailey as well. When one of us prospers, both of us tend to do better.”

Speaking on behalf of Hailey, Burke said 27 acres of Eccles Flying Hat Ranch east of the highway should be dedicated to sports fields used jointly by both communities.

“This would be a shared benefit for both of our communities. These active playfields would bring in a number of families and visitors in the summer to enjoy sporting activities there,” she said, adding that both cities should provide access to the ballfields so “soccer moms and soccer dads with a carful of kids” would not have to use state Highway 75.

Patrie, however, said the Eccles property between both jurisdictions should also not be divvied up, because the land would be subject to different rules and regulations.

Hailey’s official position on the Eccles land to the west of the highway was that it should remain as open space to meet Friedman Memorial Airport’s need for a runway protection zone, Burke said.

“We feel very strongly that this western open space would delineate our two communities, allow for acceptable use by the airport and allow the community access to river,” she said.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary asked whether Bellevue and Hailey believed more pre-zoning and conceptual planning should occur prior to annexation. Patrie responded that zoning should follow the landowner’s vision for the property.

“[Bellevue] could plan to its heart’s content, but having the landowner at the table is extremely important, because if our plan doesn’t meet their goals as a landowner, it’s just an exercise,” he said.

Eccles family attorney Evan Robertson called discussions of zoning before annexation “inappropriate.”

“Maybe I misunderstood. I thought this [hearing] was about ACI,” he said.

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners will continue ACI discussions on Oct. 13 at 1:30 p.m.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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