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

Council votes to enter chamber agreement

Valley growth on the minds of citizens


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Amidst a flurry of public comments from both sides of the issue, the Ketchum City Council voted unanimously Monday night to contract with the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce for the 1999/2000 fiscal year.

Additionally, Ketchum city officials voted to hire highway consultant Darrell Wilburn, from Darlington, Idaho, to further look into the Idaho Transportation Department’s proposed Highway 75 expansion plans and to potentially offer alternatives.

It was a night rife with concerns from local residents on the Wood River Valley’s booming growth. Impacts from an expanded highway (or problems connected with the existing highway) and the economic growth the chamber of commerce can influence were among the growth-oriented topics discussed.

Resort growth nationwide is startling, chamber of commerce executive director Carol Waller told the council. She also said, in defense of the chamber contract, that the Wood River Valley’s amenities are the result of the area’s tourist economy.

Not everyone at the meeting agreed.

"You don’t need tourists anymore," Ketchum resident Fred White said. "Let’s encourage non-tourism-type businesses in here."

The $346,000 chamber contract, to provide visitor information, marketing and promotion of the Sun Valley area, has been hotly contested by Ketchum residents Craven Young and Jake Jacoby, and on Monday night by approximately 15 additional Ketchum residents.

Young has been the driving force behind the anti-contract-signing movement. In a telephone interview, Young said he does not have a problem with the chamber, only with the city giving taxpayers’ money to fund marketing and visitor information efforts.

He told the city council he fully intends on filing a suit in Fifth District Court in Hailey to overturn the city council’s decision.

In the interview, Young, a law school graduate and local activist, cited three legal bases he will stand on in court. He said the Idaho Constitution, Article 8, section 4; Article 12, section 4; and the enabling legislation of the local option tax (LOT) are enough for a judge to take the city to task for its chamber contract.

Article 8, section 4 of the constitution reads that no city "shall lend or pledge the credit or faith thereof" to any "individual, association or corporation."

Article 12, section 4 states that no city shall "make donation or loan its credit" to "any joint stock company, corporation or association whatever."

However Ketchum city attorney Margaret Simms said the two constitutional articles do not pertain to the city’s contract with the chamber of commerce.

It’s a matter of two different interpretations of the law.

Young called the city’s chamber contract a "Robin Hood in reverse" scenario.

He said the option tax, the proceeds of which the city uses to contract with the chamber, is a regressive tax that charges the poor more than the rich in light of their respective annual incomes. To use that money to market the Sun Valley area, he said, is to help pad the wallets of large players like Sun Valley Co. and Elkhorn Resort.

Young pointed out that the LOT’s enabling legislation requires a municipality to fund a property-tax relief coffer with excess LOT revenues, a cache that has gone without funding in the city of Ketchum.

Simms, as confident that her interpretation of the law is as valid as Young’s, said she welcomes the opportunity to argue the case in court.

In voting to approve the contract, Councilwoman Chris Potters said she’s sorry residents didn’t speak out earlier in the city’s August budget hearings.

"It’s awfully hard to spend your money when you’re not here to tell us what you want," she told the residents in attendance.

Ketchum resident and Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission member Baird Gourlay reflected, "I just wish everyone would lighten up."

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On the highway consultant front, Ketchum officials voted 3 to 1, with Councilwoman Sue Noel against, to pay consultant Wilburn $9,600 to accomplish four tasks in the coming weeks.

According to city planning administrator Lisa Horowitz, Wilburn will look into how maintaining a three-lane highway—with center and side turn lanes—through the valley will affect congestion. He will also look into what would happen if drivers are merged from two to one lane as they enter Ketchum. Third, he will examine parking in Ketchum, and fourth, he will look into the timing of the traffic lights in Ketchum.

Bellevue resident Rob Mays cautioned the council to be careful to consider how north valley decisions will affect the south valley.

He said the existing two-lane highway is severely inadequate, backing up traffic as far as Hailey on holiday weekends.

Another Bellevue resident, Jay Coleman also spoke in favor of highway widening.

"If we truly wish a two-lane highway to accommodate the valley, years ago, we would have engaged in a slow-growth policy," he said.

 

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Copyright 1999 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.