Land priced at a rate that makes development of middle-income workforce housing is hard to come by. Blaine County should make sure it doesn’t become even scarcer.
Blaine County owns a 2.75-acre parcel on Main Street in Hailey, which was formerly the site of the county nursing home. The county has already agreed to use of a little less than one acre for 30 senior apartments to be developed by the nonprofit housing trust known as ARCH.
This development is a good step, but it will do nothing to increase the supply of rental housing for younger working residents who are desperately needed to sustain the local economy. It will do nothing to ease the housing shortage.
Now, the city of Hailey wants the county to earmark the remainder of the property for development as a consolidated fire station for the city and the Wood River Rural Fire District.
The housing shortage came up repeatedly as the top local issue in recent local election forums in which candidates generally agreed that local government needs to find ways to address it.
The county should not foreclose the possibility of developing additional high-density housing on the site by approving development of a fire station there, nor should Hailey use its zoning power to foreclose that option.
The county, along with the Blaine County Housing Authority, ARCH and the city of Hailey should explore every possibility to pay for construction of more housing there, including the issuance of bonds to be repaid with rental fees.
Only when the county and city can prove that development of the property for housing is impossible should it be surrendered to any other use.