Over the years of reading comments on proposed annexations in Hailey, one couple politely and consistently insisted that “development must pay for itself,” a mantra subsequently repeated by various council members. This has certainly not been the case—quite the opposite, in fact.

The failure in the Old Cutters annexation process to secure the city’s financial position with an inter-creditor agreement, which a real estate consultant I know identified as “standard operating procedure” in determining an outcome in the event of a default on payment, which occurred, cost the city millions in fees, associated litigation and an appeal that were destined to fail, costing taxpayers even more.

The butchering of the annexation ordinance, which protects the interests of citizens, by removing the “financial analysis” requirements, was completely irresponsible, as was the recent deceitful employment of an arcane “city-initiated” compulsory annexation process that circumvented standard thorough, comprehensive review, as established in previous annexation requests.

The abject failure to represent and aggressively negotiate for fees and water rights on behalf of the city and its residents, choosing instead to exclusively represent development interests at citizen expense, has created massive future unfunded liabilities. The ordinance/municipal statute so capriciously eliminated required a detailed “financial analysis” to collect fees commensurate with the costs of mitigating future impacts. The $500,000 from Quigley Farm was absurdly inadequate, and the hands of Hailey officials are now already out, big time, with a vote next week on raising franchise fees, and additional levies are being considered for the near future.

The couple referenced above also wrote “don’t give it away,” which officials have obviously and eagerly done, facilitated by a P&Z that is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the taxpayer-subsidized pipedreams of developers and a community development director formerly employed in Ketchum, creating her personal empire in Hailey with the assistance of a tractable mayor now advocating for her grandiose agenda, which appears to have more to do with her own job security than intelligent planning and associated fiscal responsibility.

The Marriott hotel project, being built by a multi-national corporation relying on local welfare, is to receive $370,000 from the Hailey URA. The proposed River Street upgrades simply enhance the investments of California venture capitalists.

A thoughtful, intelligent and recently resigned council member made perhaps the most profound statement ever uttered at City Hall: “I would rather see the ordinance drive the project than the developer drive the ordinance.” The “affordable workforce rental” bait (con) for what will probably end up being ownership/VRBO micro-units for investors who cannot afford a condo in Ketchum was swallowed whole at City Hall.

Now, the city is suggesting it needs more money from franchise-fee increases and levies for its primarily cosmetic agenda, having neglected to extract much of anything from development interests over the past 20 years, to the best of my knowledge about the length of time it has been since there have been any significant chip-sealing operations. Please publish past scheduling of streets if I am mistaken. Perhaps the city already has the money budgeted and available for such essential infrastructure maintenance—ya’ think?

Whether it’s Martha Burke (councilwoman and mayor candidate) or someone else, they will have their hand out to taxpayers for the next two decades to make up for the failures of the past two. Burke does understand the plight of those on fixed/limited incomes. Local officials have done more to make housing unaffordable through perpetually escalating tax bills than they will ever contribute to creating affordable housing. Pointing to increased value as a supposed benefit/advantage neglects the reality that for many, their house is not a financial instrument in some portfolio but their home.

William F. Hughes is a resident of Hailey.

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