The Hailey Planning and Zoning commissioners approved a three-story, 44-unit apartment building Monday evening after more than two hours of deliberation, allowing the developer to move forward with acquiring a building permit from the city.
The “40 McKercher” project from Northridge developer Mark Caplow will see 44 units go up in the Northridge section of Hailey, just east of what will soon be the new L.L. Greens hardware store.
Because the building cleared design review on Monday, it will not need a second vote from the City Council, according to City Administrator Lisa Horowitz.
The development calls for eight 1,230-square-foot two-bedroom apartments, 14 625-square-foot one-bedroom apartments and 22 550-square-foot studio apartments, as well as a covered walkway to enter the building, a lobby/mailroom and an administrative office.
According to project architect Scrap Marshall of Los Angeles-based firm Hawkins & Marshall, the “40 McKercher” building will stand 35 feet tall—appearing similar in scale to the neighboring 64-unit AmericInn hotel—with a main driveway entrance on McKercher Boulevard and a rear entry point accessed through the L.L. Green’s parking lot for garbage trucks and emergency vehicles.
The building would sit in Hailey’s “Downtown Residential Overlay” district, or “DRO,” a zoning layer created by the Hailey City Council in 2018 to incentivize higher-density development.
The district requires a minimum of one parking space per unit, at least one guest parking space for every six units and an average dwelling unit size “not less than 600 net square feet.”
Marshall said each unit will have air conditioning, a washer/dryer and “environmentally conscious” appliances. The top floor units and hallway will feature skylights.
Outside, a landscaped courtyard facing McKercher to the north will connect to the bike path. Twenty-one covered parking spaces, including six guest stalls, will face First Avenue, with access via McKercher Boulevard. The remaining 35 parking spaces will be housed in a first-floor parking garage closed off by large mesh cages filled with rocks.
“I really think this is a great location in terms of accessibility to the highway and into town,” project representative Samantha Stahlnecker of Opal Engineering told the P&Z on Monday.
Marshall said in an email to the Express that the building will be completed in one phase using cross-laminated timber construction, or CLT, a method that relies on prefabricated wood panels shipped to the site for quick installation.
Project draws pushback
The “40 McKercher” project failed to win approval from the P&Z in May and again in August due to concerns over size, affordability, parking, its effect on the local water system and how it would fit into a residential area.
Commissioners touched on each of those issues on Monday.
“There is no question that multifamily housing belongs on this piece of property, but there’s a time and place for studio units,” Commissioner Owen Scanlon said. “I would like to see the number of two-bedroom units doubled. It seems sad to me that this multifamily housing development is within a stone’s throw of the school, but there aren’t enough [family units].”
Commissioner Dustin Stone said he was disappointed that the applicant team did not consider any deed-restricted units throughout the project’s various iterations.
“We asked for a slight amount of leeway on deed-controlled units and got nothing in return. We asked to slightly reduce density to make it so that budding families could move in. There was no change,” he said, agreeing with Scanlon that “more two bedrooms are needed.”
P&Z Chairwoman Janet Fugate said the developer “hasn’t responded” to the P&Z’s concerns, but that she “did not want to get into litigation” over the project.
Fugate also made note of the overwhelmingly negative feedback that the P&Z had received from Northridge neighbors, both in emails and letters read aloud at P&Z meetings.
“The public comments that we did receive in support of the project all mentioned workforce housing, so it kind of made the positive comments not carry as much weight as they otherwise would,” she said.
During Monday’s public-comment session, Northridge resident Jason Shearer said the development would disrupt the walkable character of the neighborhood. The 22 studio units were the same size as “small prison cells,” he added.
“There are so many things about this project that say, ‘This is about the developer,’” he said. “Families should be able to have a separate bedroom for their child, not a small prison cell. There’s no green space to play, no place to park. We’re moving from two-story construction [at L.L. Green’s] to three-story construction, all within walking distance from the middle school.”
Northridge resident Katie Craig painted a picture of increasingly congested alleyways, noise and dangerous traffic.
“You’re not taking into consideration any of the neighbors,” she said. “It’s too big, I’ve said this all along.”
Hailey resident Rebecca Deshields, a substitute teacher at the middle school, didn’t think the proposed speed bumps would do enough to curb speeding.
“Packing people in like that is no good,” she said.
Northridge resident Tim Richards said he found the applicant team's projected 104 occupants at the “40 McKercher” building alarming and suggested that Caplow instead build 18 cottages on the 0.75-acre parcel, which he said the developer had done on a similarly sized lot in Austin, Texas.
“This is not a NIMBY issue. The reality is that there is going to be much more automobile traffic ... with 100 [residents] and their friends,” he said.
Richards also suggested retrofitting the former Silvercreek Independent Living facility on McKercher Boulevard into workforce housing.
“It already has parking and it’s right off [Highway] 75,” he said.
According to Kenny-Bogue Commercial Real Estate, the firm listed the 32-unit assisted-living facility for $6,995,000 last month.
Broker Paul Kenny told the Express that several large employers—Sun Valley Co., St. Luke’s, the Limelight Hotel and the Valley Club—as well as the Wood River Community Housing Trust expressed interest in the property, and that its 32 single units could easily be converted to apartments with kitchenettes.
“The prospects have been numerous,” Kenny said. “We have an offer in hand.”
City, applicants address water concerns
This week’s design-review hearing was continued from last month mostly due to the building’s unknown impact on the local water supply.
On Monday, project consultant Eric Landsberg of Boise-based Clear Solutions Engineering presented a study demonstrating that impact, post-construction. He told the P&Z that water pressure would remain around 45 pounds per square inch throughout Northridge—above the statewide requirement of 40 psi.
According to the Sept. 7 study, Landsberg looked at the northeast corner of Northridge, where previous city models showed the lowest water pressure values in the city. After running various water-use scenarios, he said, the area’s water pressure remained the same, at 45 psi.
“The impact to the water system at this point is negligible,” Stahlnecker said.
Public Works Director Brian Yeager said he came to the same conclusion using hydraulic modeling in August 2021. He noted that 164-unit Balmoral multifamily development in Woodside used an average of 5,085 gallons per unit per month—about the total of just four residential lots in Northridge.
Taking that figure and multiplying it by 44 units, he said, the "40 McKercher" project would pull roughly 223,740 gallons of water per month, not including irrigation water.
“The point I want everyone to understand is our biggest use is irrigation, by and far. That’s what is consuming our water supply,” Yeager said. “I don’t see any reason to challenge or refute the information [from the applicant team].”
Yeager also addressed the residents’ concerns about low water pressure in Northridge, which he partially attributed to Hailey’s downward-sloping topography. The inclined plane means that water from the gravity-fed Indian Creek well picks up velocity toward China Gardens and Woodside, he said.
Yeager added that the sensor in the Northridge well, like an air-conditioning unit, takes a while to register changes in water demand and accordingly increase water supply—and it could be a matter of minutes before the sensor responds to a neighbor “aggressively watering” their garden, he said.
“The [pressure sensor] is constantly asking what’s the pressure in the pipe. As soon as that drops, the well will kick on and start providing water,” he said.
Yeager also noted that the new Sunbeam subdivision “feeder well” that will be developed by the city using donated land from developer Ed Dumke should help with water-pressure issues in Northridge.
P&Z casts votes ‘under protest’
The P&Z had an option Monday to continue the hearing to Nov. 7, deny the project or approve it with additional conditions.
The board could not—as Stone and Scanlon had suggested—legally add a condition mandating additional two-bedroom units because the project already met the requirements of the zoning district, Community Development Director Robyn Davis said.
“You can make suggestions based on what you would like to see, but there are no design criteria that regulate the [type of units], Robyn said.
City Attorney Chris Simms agreed that such a condition would be “inappropriate,” but said commissioners could “certainly” make their opposition to the project known on record.
“How did we get here? How did we develop [city code] that we don’t feel good about?” Scanlon protested. “Why are we being led with handcuffs to vote for something we don’t approve of?”
Stone said that adding more two bedrooms “could just add to the parking problem.”
“I see it as a bind. Maybe in the future we’ll [need to] all ride electric bicycles and scooters,” he said.
Stahlnecker said she was disappointed that the two-bedroom issue had been a sticking point for the board, as there were already a “significant number” of single-family homes in the proximity of the middle school.
“With all due respect, I understand the need for additional bedrooms, but there is also a demand for [studio] units,” she said. “[Caplow] is responsible for making sure that the project is profitable, because if not, you’ll have no units instead of 44.”
Stahlnecker asked the P&Z for a decision, noting that the construction deadline was looming.
“[Caplow] has been very specific about the margins of profit on his project,” she said. “As you mentioned, the finishes are nice. This is not an inexpensive piece of property. Two-bedroom units mean losing [single] units—unfortunately I don’t think that that is going to pencil for the applicant.”
The commissioners then conceeded that their job was to approve or deny projects based on city code—not personal bias—and found they couldn’t turn down the project because it met parking and density standards.
“We’re pretty much tied to approving this,” Commissioner Dan Smith concluded. “The developer’s main concern is cash flow. Let’s just cut to the chase. They’ve obviously done their analysis that says studio bedrooms and one bedrooms is where the money is.
“Most likely these will be potential parking spots for ski parkas and skis and mountain bikes. Obviously, this is a more upscale development.”
Scanlon agreed as he examined a piece of siding provided by the applicant team.
“You know, if you look at the finished materials, this isn’t Balmoral. They’re making this a nice building with covered parking, and they’ve got to charge for it. They can’t afford to [deed restrict units]."
All four commissioners then voted “aye.” (Richard Pogue, the fifth commissioner, was not present, as he has moved away and his seat is vacant, according to Davis.)
“Aye, under protest,” Scanlon said.
“I want to prevent this from happening again,” Smith said, “Us bound to having to say ‘OK,’ because we cannot ask for additional parking. We can’t carry on this path much longer.” ￼