Biggest decision in 25 years
The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission wisely
decided to take its time in evaluating the proposal by St. Lukes hospital to add a
big, tall office building to its site south of Ketchum.
It turns out that although St. Lukes had designated an area for a
future office building on its original plan for the site, the county had never approved an
office building there. Last weeks editorial that said that the county had already
approved a smaller building was in error.
If approved, the building and its impacts on traffic and commercial sprawl
will be with the valley well beyond the foreseeable future.
Not only will development of the 40,000-square-foot office building
demolish the countys ban on commercial sprawl, it could increase highway traffic
significantly. The building would generate an estimated 1,445 vehicle trips a day on top
of the 1,780 that will be generated by the hospital alone. Together they have the
potential to increase the number of existing vehicle trips on the highway, now 12,746 per
day, by up to 25 percent. Ouch.
In making the building height 46 feet, the buildings designers
ignored Ketchums height limit of 35 feet and the countys height limit of 40
feet. They did it for no good reason except they could. The county had overlooked
establishing a height limit in this zone when it hastily rewrote a section of its zoning
code to allow the hospital to be built.
The decision on the medical office building is arguably the single most
important planning decision since zoning was introduced in Blaine County nearly 25 years
ago. Residents should watch it closely.