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For the week of Sept. 8, 1999 through Sept. 14, 1999

Decision makers move to accelerate McHanville planning decisions


By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer

County and Ketchum city officials have agreed to form a committee to accelerate planning in the McHanville area, south of Ketchum.

With construction of St. Luke’s Hospital well on its way, county and city representatives met at the old Blaine County Courthouse on Thursday to discuss the area’s future in light of the new facility.

Members of the McHanville Landowners Association, consisting of 11 property owners, also attended, led by their spokesman, John McDonald.

Though the meeting was legally noticed according to state law—that is, posted at Ketchum City Hall and at the old Blaine County Courthouse five days prior to the meeting—the public was not notified in newspaper legal sections.

All those participating at the meeting agreed the time has come to plan that future, but the nature of development in the area remains a matter of debate. County Commissioner Mary Ann Mix it’s time for decision makers to sit down at the table, face to face, to resolve issues.

The new committee will make recommendations to the county for zoning in the area. Expected to be made up of eight to 12 members, the committee will consist of Ketchum council members, county commissioners and McHanville property owners. The panel is scheduled to be in place within a couple of weeks.

Main issues that surfaced during Thursday’s discussion among the county commissioners, Ketchum City Council members, McHanville property owners and St. Luke’s officials were:

  • Appropriate zoning and limitation of development.

  • Changes in zoning to make existing commercial uses conforming.

  • Annexation of McHanville by the city of Ketchum and the provision of public services to the area.

The 9.15 acre strip of land in question is situated between state Highway 75 and the hospital site. The area is located in the county but is in Ketchum’s area of impact.

Pursuant to an impact agreement between the county and city, the county has jurisdiction over the McHanville area but takes comments from the city of Ketchum.

Last month, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the creation of a hospital overlay zone that would limit hospital related uses to no more than 10 percent of the total land area of McHanville. The commissioners stated concerns that any development beyond that amount would harm the appearance of the south entrance to Ketchum. The commission also recommended that the area be annexed by Ketchum.

Ketchum City Councilwoman Sue Noel, who is in favor of the annexation of McHanville by the city of Ketchum, said there shouldn’t be a cap on development of medical related facilities in McHanville. She said the area is a natural place for such development to occur, and that it could do so while protecting residential uses and enhancing the entrance to Ketchum.

Noel said she favors creating a hospital overlay zone in McHanville, which would uphold the rights of property owners who have been waiting to develop their land. Mix also expressed support for an overlay district that would allow a sufficient amount of hospital-related uses to support St. Luke’s hospital.

McHanville property owners also spoke against putting a limitation on commercial development.

"We have to be careful in not getting too specific on uses in McHanville," said landowner Emil Capik.

However, Ketchum City Councilwoman Chris Potters said she would like to see enough planning to avoid a "free-for-all run on development in the area." Potters said development should be limited in order to preserve the rural character of the area and discourage urban sprawl.

McHanville property owner John McDonald, who is also Ketchum’s postmaster, said McHanville’s 11 property owners agree they do not want the area annexed by Ketchum. He said a hostile annexation wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest.

Mix commented that the discussion didn’t indicate a consensus that Ketchum should annex McHanville, and noted that property owners are generally opposed to forced annexation. Mix emphasized that property owners should be part of continuing discussions.

County Commissioner Leonard Harlig said it isn’t important who owns the property or whether Ketchum annexes McHanville.

"It’s important that the use of the property serves the overall community welfare," Harlig said.

Harlig said land use issues for the area should be confronted by first legitimizing the existing, non-conforming commercial uses in McHanville; second, by providing for long-term needs related to the hospital and health care; and third, by preserving residential uses.

Ketchum City Councilman Dave Hutchinson said there is no conflict between Ketchum and the county in planning for McHanville.

"Our comp plans are similar regarding land use and development," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson agreed it was "time to get down to details" in planning for McHanville.

County officials had previously discussed the possibility that increased development at McHanville may require amendment of the county’s comprehensive plan, which directs commercial development to occur in cities. However, Mix said Thursday that would not be necessary since McHanville is designated by the county comprehensive plan as a special planning area due to its existing commercial nature.

Current zoning in McHanville is R-4 Medium Density Residential. Under that zoning, the existing light industrial and commercial uses in the area are non-conforming.

Mix agreed that the non-conforming uses in McHanville should be legitimized and asked Tom Bergin of the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Department how that could be accomplished.

Bergin said the special planning designation for McHanville is to allow for mixed uses in the future. He said there is nothing in the comp plan or zoning ordinance to prevent a hybrid zone or multiple uses in McHanville.

Property owner McDonald said proper zoning in McHanville, which would incorporate adequate setbacks to provide for attractive landscaping, would make it worthwhile for people to invest there.

"We would like to clean up the area, to improve it and make it look better," McDonald said. "Unless we’re given the tools to do that, it’s not going to happen."

The square footage of the hospital facility equals nearly 25 percent of the McHanville area. St. Luke’s officials have also applied to county planners for a permit to construct a 24,000-square-foot medical office building accommodating up to 15 physicians.

However, St. Luke’s Hospital administrator Jon Moses said that due to the growing number of physicians that want to have office buildings near the hospital, St. Luke’s would request that the proposed facility be expanded to 40,000 square feet.

 

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