For the week of June 9, 1999  thru June 15, 1999  

Was the hospital a Trojan horse?

It is enough that residents compromised the valley’s land planning to allow a new hospital to be built in the county, south of Ketchum.

It is enough that the valley’s politicians set aside fractious local politics long enough to find a hospital site upon which all could agree.

It is enough that residents voted their overwhelming approval of the site.

It is enough that local residents contributed generously to construct the new private non-profit St. Luke’s hospital.

It is too much to ask that valley residents compromise further by giving the green light to the kind of urban sprawl that has created unlivable cities from coast to coast—all in the name of accommodating the hospital.

It is too much to ask the valley to sacrifice what’s left of its most affordable housing—mobile homes in McHanville—to make way for offices or new light industrial enterprises.

It is too much to ask that residents accept second-rate planning and second-rate solutions from city and county officials who were tardy and failed to develop a plan for McHanville when they knew the hospital would change the face of the area.

McHanville lies in Ketchum’s area of impact in which the city controls development. The city has drafted three options for the area

 high density residential and limited light industrial zoning

 a health services zoning district that would permit medical offices and hospital-related uses, eliminate light industrial uses by making them non-conforming and preventing expansion, and prohibit new housing—existing housing would be replaced and lost over time, and current residents displaced

 a combination of hospital-related uses and high-density housing that would include some affordable units.

Not one of the options would increase affordable housing stocks without increasing the intensity of the commercial uses at the site. In fact, two of the three options would probably decrease housing stocks. Worse, all of the options would invite commercial sprawl.

Given the highway access problems at the site, it’s hard to believe the city has proposed options that would increase commercial traffic.

It’s hard to believe a city that claims it’s working to retain and increase affordable housing, would entertain any thought of eradicating housing with no plans for replacing it.

It’s inconceivable the city would propose expanded light industrial space or offices because it knows full-blown retail operations will creep in as they have in the city’s other light industrial zone.

If local leaders in Ketchum or Blaine County intended to bust the valley’s prohibitions on commercial development on the highway, they should have told residents before the hospital was invited in.

Doing so now is to have made the hospital a kind of Trojan horse, from whose belly commercial sprawl may creep.

. There’s got to be a better solution—complete residential zoning, for example. The city should go to great lengths to avoid breaking down the decades-long prohibition on commercial development along the highway.


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