The cities of Hailey and Bellevue seem to be at odds over how the open area that lies between the two towns should be developed in coming years.
The two cities need to resolve their differences not as adversaries, but with a win-win goal in mind. If a win-win option isn’t found, all Wood River Valley citizens and visitors will suffer.
Ideally, the cities could help one another instead of becoming combatants in a battle of wills and legal maneuvering over which will gain sole control of the area. That’s going to be difficult because the two cities are vying not only for control of the property, but for the tax revenues it could produce when each city annexes all or portions of the property.
The controversy between the two cities is emblematic of the parochial attitudes and rivalries that have existed among cities along the Wood River practically since the day each one inked its boundaries on a map of incorporation.
Anyone who’s lived here for more than one season knows that Sun Valley isn’t Ketchum, and that Hailey isn’t either one, nor is Bellevue. Even though Hailey and Bellevue lie 3 short miles apart, they are entirely different.
The fact that half the jobs in the Sun Valley area are located north of Ohio Gulch and the fact that most of the population lives south of the same line doesn’t mean that residents share homogenous attitudes about what communities should look like or how they should operate. Each town is unique and has maintained its uniqueness over time.
Even so, the towns have more in common than what separates them. Residents share an appreciation for mountain geography and outdoor recreation. They generally have protected both, through careful planning and development that has balanced economic growth with aesthetics.
Residents have not supported zoning or developments that would have created commercial strips between towns. Zoning has been nuanced and confined to the most high-intensity commercial and light industrial uses within city centers.
Few residents would have combustion engines dominate pedestrians. Blue Lakes Boulevard in Twin Falls is a nearby example of what Blaine County residents have tried to prevent.
The future of the area between Bellevue and Hailey needs to be shaped by local sensibilities, not just revenues that may be generated for developers or the cities. With the help of the county, the cities should engage in friendly negotiations to try to craft a solution that protects the character of each town and enhances the area in between.