Dont breach ban on commercial sprawl
If Ketchum and Blaine County arent careful, they
will soon create loopholes in local zoning ordinances that will wreck the valleys
ban on commercial development on the highway.
It will all be done in the name of good planning and good health
carewith disastrous results for the community at large.
In a hastily called meeting last week, the Ketchum City Council and the
Blaine County Commissioners heard McHanville property owners say they want no restrictions
on commercial development in the blighted area in the county south of Ketchum.
Officials also have a July 26 memo from the private St. Lukes
Community Council that states that it is critical to the financial health and long-term
viability of the hospital that the hospital be allowed to add new facilities for various
One of the "facilities" is a 40,000-square-foot medical
office building to be owned by the hospitalnearly 70 percent larger than the
hospitals existing permit for a 24,000- square-foot medical office building.
In addition, the hospital wants to be allowed to operate facilities for
outpatient care, therapy services, dining and meeting rooms. It wants garage parking and
parking for mobile medical services and recreational vehicles used by people related to
The combination of unrestricted commercial development, a hospital that
has its eye on expansion before its doors have even opened, and a county that does not
review the design of any commercial buildings is a volatile cocktail.
The enormous medical office building will draw professionals from
existing commercial space in both Ketchum and Hailey. The memo said the hospital even
wants to provide office space for dentists
The hospital apparently wants to be in more than the hospital business.
It wants to be in the landlord and property management business.
The whole mix could turn Blaine Countys comprehensive plan on its
Development of office space and removal of restrictions on commercial
development at McHanville will create lots of pressure for similar development on other
lands that are currently zoned for residential development.
Owners of nearby properties will argue that development of more intense
commercial uses at McHanville will make their lands less attractive for residential uses.
They will argue that they should also become "special planning" areas like
McHanville, or outright commercial zones.
Once the argument is successful, once the ban is breached, the dominoes
will fall. The door could open to the whole panoply of developmentfrom pharmacies to
gas stationsall the way from Ketchums southern border to Cold Springs.
Creation of a large commercial satellite at McHanville is not good
Forcing everyone to drive an already overburdened highway to get to
appointments with doctors, dentists, therapists or other medical professionals is not good
Voluntarily tipping over the first commercial domino on Highway 75 is
not good planning.
In May 1996, valley residents voted to build a local hospitalnot
an urban-style medical center--when they compromised on a site, agreed to close two
hospitals and invited St. Lukes to locate south of Ketchum.
Residents did not vote to disfigure their beautiful valley with ugly
Residents did not vote to overturn 25 years of planning that kept the
valley from succumbing to the ailments of its urban cousins.
Residents did not vote to allow construction of commercial buildings
without any public oversight of design.
Residents did not vote to remove the ban on commercial development
along the highway.
Residents did not vote to create a commercial satellite that would
compete with existing downtown commercial districts.
Residents did not vote to allow their public officials to discuss
important zoning issues in cozy meetings with vested private interests.
Residents did not vote to allow public officials to give them a scant
48 hours notice posted at City Hall and no published notice for issues as important as the
future of the area around the hospital.
Residents did not vote to eliminate manufactured housing or mobile
homes in McHanville.
Residents did not vote to have officials ignore the need for public
transportation to be extended to the hospital.
Yet, city and county officials are behaving as if voters approved all
those things along with the hospital site.
Residents and visitors want and need good health care. They also want
and need a wisely planned valley community.
The quest for good health care should not be an excuse for destroying
the valleys special character and quality of life. McHanville should not be an
excuse to embrace poor community planning just because its easy.