Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Friday, incorrectly reported that the Blaine County P&Z approved a planned-unit development application for Quigley Ranch subdivision at a hearing on June 9. The P&Z, in fact, continued the hearing to July 7. The original story has been replaced with this updated and expanded version. The Express regrets the error.
The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission agreed on June 9 to continue deliberations next month on a planned-unit development application and rezone application that, if approved, would subdivide about 50 acres of land out Quigley Canyon into three main residential clusters and preserve more than 500 acres as open space.
The proposed 24-lot development, Quigley Ranch subdivision, would sit just east of the county line and adjacent to Hailey’s up-and-coming Quigley Farm neighborhood.
The Quigley Ranch plan calls for 18 lots to be clustered into three “pods” on the canyon floor, each centered around a cul-de-sac. Lot sizes would range from around 1.3 to 5 acres, with the largest six lots situated along what is now Quigley Road and bounded to the north by the Blaine County Recreation District trail.
To accommodate the larger six Quigley Ranch lots, developer Dave Hennessy—who is also developing Quigley Farm—has proposed shifting part of the road within the county to the south and rezoning a narrow strip of land that runs through the northwestern section of the properties from “mountain overlay” to “residential.” He is also asking the P&Z to pave one mile of Quigley Road from Buttercup Trailhead out to Quigley Ranch for easier access to both residential neighborhoods.
According to a June 9 presentation from project representative Samantha Stahlnecker of Opal Engineering, the applicant team also plans to add 13 parking stalls beyond the asphalt section, including eight in a parking lot that would double as a snowplow turnaround and five parallel-parking spots along the shoulder.
“The dedicated parking area is there… so people don’t feel like they have to walk on the road or road shoulder,” Stahlnecker told meeting attendees.
Ultimately, P&Z members opted to come back to the rezone and planned-unit development applications on Thursday, July 7, giving the applicant team more time to respond to questions from the public. Once the P&Z signs off on both applications, those will still need to head to the Blaine County commissioners for a final vote.
Concerns raised about hillside impacts
The gravel stretch of Quigley Road past Hailey city limits sees heavy use from dog walkers, bikers, hunters and other user groups year-round, but is not maintained or accessible by car in the winter months.
According to Hailey City Administrator Lisa Horowitz, upwards of 100 people use Quigley Road per day in the summer. The Quigley Dog and Fat Tire Loop—one of the canyon’s more popular Nordic ski trails—also draws hundreds of daily visitors in the winter.
P&Z received more than than 50 letters from members of the public prior to the hearing. Criticism of Hennessy’s planned-unit development and rezone applications has been centered around the development’s perceived negative impact on big-game animals, increased traffic danger and noise, diminished views, loss of Nordic trails and hydrological impacts to an already-stressed aquifer system.
Several Quigley Canyon users, like Bellevue resident Cathy Showalter and Hailey resident Molly Goodyear, said in a public-comment session on June 9 that paving Quigley Road would decrease its appeal among the many residents, including seniors, who walk it for exercise.
“I think that Quigley Canyon represents the heart of our valley. The bird songs, deer and elk … there are intangible things that aren’t represented on an application,” Goodyear said. “This is a sacred place. This rezone would have significant adverse impacts on wildlife and thousands of recreational users to benefit a handful.”
“It seems like paving is a huge concern for a lot of people, generations of people who have walked the gravel road,” P&Z commissioner Ted Stout said.
Others said that the six large single-family lots would have no positive impact on the local affordable housing crisis.
“The [current plan] would allow extremely large homes that are not within the character of the valley. I’m not seeing other options,” Hailey resident Denise Ford said.
Still others said that the proposed mountain overlay district rezone would open the door to sweeping rezones of canyon areas, setting a dangerous precedent for building on hillsides and increasing avalanche and wildfire danger.
“My concern is the long-term impact, not only on the landscape, but on future development in Blaine County and other developers wanting to change [zoning],” Hailey resident Patrick Owen told the P&Z.
According to code, Blaine County’s mountain overlay district is intended to protect hillsides and scenic vistas and “direct development to land outside of” the district. The ordinance prevents construction on hillsides above a 25% slope. The line was mapped countywide in the mid-1990s, but property owners can apply to change it based on more accurate and up-to-date information determined by a site-specific survey.
Recent topographical analysis presented by Stahlnecker showed that the section of mountain overlay slated to be rezoned contains south-facing slopes at 15% to 25% slope. A required avalanche study by Ketchum-based Alpine Enterprises found that each of the six larger Quigley Ranch lots contain avalanche hazard zones, with five out of six having “red,” or more likely, avalanche pathways.
In a May 23 letter from the Wood River Land Trust, the organization, which owns a conservation easement spanning a large portion of the canyon, stated that it does not support building on over 15% slope.
“We … agree that a more conservative MOD and buffer will enhance the protection of sagebrush habitat and hillside slopes,” Land Trust Lands Program Director Keri York wrote. “If the MOD rezone is approved, we recommend all building envelopes to be of minimal size and to be on slopes below 15%.”
York also disagreed with a wildlife assessment completed by Boise-based GeoEnginers on behalf of Hennessy Company, which suggested that Quigley Ranch would not significantly impact deer and elk or have an impact on “sensitive ecosystems.”
The canyon was identified this past winter by the BLM, Blaine County and Land Trust “as an area with significant recreational impacts to wintering deer,” York wrote.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game expressed similar sentiment in a written review of the development in February.
“Currently, the south-facing slopes east of Hailey and Ketchum, including Quigley Canyon, contain most of the last quality winter range in the Wood River Valley that is used by mule deer and elk in severe winters,” Fish and Game stated. “If current trends of development and associated recreational and residential use in the vicinity persist, these areas are not expected to continue supporting winter populations of big game.”
Applicant team foresees ‘open space in perpetuity’
In letters to the P&Z and in public comment, one common ask has been to move the Quigley Ranch residential clusters west and south, closer to Hailey city limits. Another has been to use Fox Acres Road instead of Quigley Road as an entry point into Quigley Ranch.
In her presentation, Stahlnecker said that Quigley Ranch was conceptualized with ample space between pods to encourage wildlife migration up to the hillside while also allowing space for rerouted Nordic trails and septic drain fields.
Pushing the 18 lots toward Hailey would only make the development feel like an extension of the city, she said, and relocating Quigley Road would actually bring it more into compliance with county code by pulling it away from the avalanche zone.
“While the public may not agree that the development of Quigley Road is a benefit to the public, I think it really is. We’re not taking recreation and open space away,” she said. “If we were to shift the pods west, we would be pushing Nordic trails further out the canyon … I think we can all agree that there’s an impact to wildlife currently and in the proposed [development]. I don’t think we can make an argument about which is more or less impactful.”
Stahnlecker added that lots would be fenced to reduce interaction between dogs on private property and dogs tagging along with cross-country skiers, and new smooth-wire fencing would be added along the road to keep wildlife and livestock away from cars.
P&Z chairwoman Susan Giannettino asked about the viability of removing the five-foot gravel shoulders on both sides of Quigley Road to make room for a 10-foot-wide gravel path. Stahlnecker responded that the original 2017 agreement that annexed Quigley Farm into Hailey contemplated a paved, 26-foot-wide road.
“A separate gravel path next to the road would almost be excessive,” she said. “The BCRD also has the goal to get more people on their dedicated [Quigley] trail system.”
Stahlnecker also touched on water conservation measures proposed at Quigley Ranch, including a dedicated irrigation system that would deliver up to 40,000 gallons per day of “gray water”—washing machine and bathroom water recycled from the nearby Quigley Farm development—for irrigation needs. At full build out, the development would need 74,000 gallons per day for irrigation. According to Stahlnecker, the additional 34,000 gallons per day would be sourced from Quigley Creek, for which Quigley Ranch has senior surface water rights dating to the 1880s. Stahlnecker indicated she would be presenting more information on potable water, which would come from several groundwater wells as well as the proposed “gray water” system, in the forthcoming July 7 meeting.
In response to criticism over the six larger lots, Stahlnecker said that zoning technically allows 5-acre lots across the board, and the current Quigley Ranch plan was modest in comparison.
“Hypothetically we could have proposed 133 acres of [development], even extending into sensitive habitat areas. We’re preserving all that land,” she said. “The developer wants to support [recreation] and open space in perpetuity so it’s available to the community, forever.” ￼