Two-hundred and twelve acres of the Eccles Flying Hat Ranch should be added to Bellevue’s area of city impact, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission concluded on Thursday.
The commission’s formal recommendation represented a strong win for Bellevue, according to Mayor Ned Burns, though not a final determination—the Blaine County commissioners still have the final word on where Hailey and Bellevue’s area of city impact (or ACI) boundaries are drawn.
If Bellevue’s ACI boundary is extended north to Hailey city limits, Burns said, the Eccles ranchland that currently serves as a buffer between both jurisdictions would, once annexed, provide the city ample room to grow.
“We envision a lot of changes over the next 50 years—a zone of higher-density housing than we currently have, more general residential housing, a larger light-industrial district and, at some point, a new school,” Burns said in a Monday interview. “Obviously, we’re going to make sure there is useful separating space like park land and ballfields between our cities.”
Burns said he was pleased with the commission’s determination last week and hopes it will gain momentum among the county board of commissioners.
“We had very strong argument as to why we had legal footing to annex [the Eccles property] into our city and have it within our area of city influence,” he said.
Burns noted that the Eccles family has requested that the entirety of their farm be annexed into Bellevue.
“So, the P&Z [determination] falls in line with the wishes of the landowner, as well as our own needs,” he said.
While Planning and Zoning commissioners ultimately determined that the land should go to Bellevue, they urged both cities to work together going forward. Thursday’s decision followed an at-times heated discussion.
“In the end, it’s going to the benefit the whole valley if the two communities work together and recognize that that corridor is significant to everybody,” Commissioner Susan Giannettino said.
Hailey and Bellevue have been at odds this past year over their proposed ACI maps, both of which overlap on the Eccles Flying Hat Ranch. In February, Hailey extended its ACI over 100 acres down into the ranch, amending its comprehensive land-use plan to reflect that change.
Hailey URA eyes expansion
On Thursday, the Hailey Urban Renewal Agency will discuss which areas of the city are in greatest need of infrastructure improvements. Recently, the agency proposed two potential renewal districts—one along Airport Way and one in the South Woodside area—to help revitalize Hailey’s southern half.
Hailey URA Executive Director Lisa Horowitz stressed that the agency is in the ‘exploratory’ phase with both districts.
“Our job is to figure out where the city has properties in the blighted category and where infrastructure is lacking,” she said. “As the city’s assessed value goes up every year, the URA has more capacity to create new districts.”
The Hailey URA—a separate public entity supported by tax-increment financing—currently funds infrastructure improvements in the city’s Gateway district, which spans along Main Street from McKercher Boulevard to Fox Acres Road. If established, a new Airport Way renewal district would help improve pedestrian safety from Main Street to the St. Luke’s Clinic, Horowitz said.
Farther south, the agency’s proposed South Woodside renewal district is split into two smaller subdistricts—‘A,’ which covers the light-industrial area, and ‘B,’ which encompasses over 100 acres of the Eccles Flying Hat Ranch east of state Highway 75. Subdistrict A would improve roads and storm drainage in the city’s light-industrial district, Horowitz said. Subdistrict B would help reimburse developers for sidewalk, curb and utility line fees on what’s now Eccles land.
The future of the B subdistrict is uncertain, however, given the County P&Z’s recommendation last week.
“My sense is that we will only be focusing on the A section, given the recent discussions with Bellevue and the county over our areas of city impact,” Horowitz said.
Burns described the entire Woodside renewal district proposal as an “underhanded way to entice new developers” by offsetting the cost of infrastructure on the Eccles property.
“From the point of view of a taxpayer in the Woodside light industrial zone, I’d find that offensive,” Burns said. “I’d wonder why the URA would put in all this new infrastructure in the [B] district when they haven’t cleaned up areas that need cleaning up within the L.I. zone.”
Tony Evans and Gretel Kauffman contributed reporting to this story.