By KEVIN WISER
Express Staff Writer
After listening to objections from residents who packed the county meeting
room in Hailey last Thursday, the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission decided to
hold a second hearing before deciding on a proposed three-story medical office building.
St. Lukes hospital officials had asked Blaine County P&Z for
permission to construct the 40,000-square-foot building next to its 106,000-square-foot
hospital, now under construction at a site one mile south of Ketchum.
The proposed buildings height is 46 feet. The height of the hospital
is 47 feet.
The office building would exceed the countys 40-foot height limit
placed on all other zones. The Recreational Development District in which the hospital is
being built has no height limit.
According to the planning staff report, the hospital was allowed to build
higher because of special mechanical needs.
The hospital has 257 parking spaces. The staff report says the office
building is required to have 200 more spaces, although only 120 are proposed, including
some in a public right of way.
The office building lies within Ketchums zone of impact, an area
that may be annexed into the city one day.
In a March 9 letter to the county, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning
Commission listed the following objections to the building:
Gary Fletcher, St. Lukes executive vice president for operations,
told the P&Z at Thursdays hearing that a medical office building is needed to
efficiently deliver quality care to patients. He said it is common practice to have
doctors offices and health-related facilities clustered around hospitals.
The building is for doctors who need access to the hospital quickly, and
St. Lukes wants to accommodate them, he said.
Hospital chief of staff Dr. Frank Fiaschetti said up to 18 doctors want to
move into the building.
Local orthopedic surgeon Tim Floyd said, "A matter of minutes can
mean the difference between life and death."
St. Lukes representatives suggested that the public indicated
support for the medical complex, including the office building, in the 1996 voter
referendum in which 90 percent of voters in Blaine County approved consolidation of the
valleys two hospitals into one facility at the site.
Former Ketchum Mayor Jerry Seiffert took part in the drafting of the
countys comprehensive plan in the 1970s. He said that in developing the plan,
elected officials were concerned about the McHanville area and didnt want
checkerboard development down Highway 75.
Seiffert questioned the location and size of the medical campus.
"Such a facility should be in an urban complex," he said,
"not in a narrow valley with one highway."
Ketchum Area Rapid Transit manager Terry Crawford said the office building
will increase service demands and costs.
He said KART is required by federal law to provide van service to
passengers with disabilities, including trips to a doctors office in Ketchum or
within one mile of the city limits. Passengers may reside inside or outside city limits.
Crawford said disabled riders use regular bus service once inside city
limits to do other errandshaving prescriptions filled and getting groceries, for
examplebefore needing a return trip home on a van. He said medical offices located
outside city limits will increase the number of van trips necessary for disabled
Crawford said KART is frustrated because despite several calls to St.
Lukes, KART had not received a response about the matter.
Attorney Marc McGregor, of Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth, said
no one contests the need for a quality health care facility. However, McGregor said,
Blaine County voters did not agree to an urban medical complex.
"The problem is finding the balance between that (medical) need and
having an urban medical complex in a rural area," McGregor said.
He said there is no evidence the office building complies with county
ordinances or the comprehensive plan.
The P&Z, he said, should consider the impact of the medical office
building on the rural character of the area and make sure that commercial development is
not expanded into unincorporated parts of the county.
McHanville property owner Kim Nilsen said it wasnt fair to approve
St. Lukes office building while continuing to prohibit commercial development in the
area around it.
Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth president Steven Wolper said,
"The hospital will not exist in a vacuum. It will affect McHanville."
"Weve heard property owners say they want an office building in
McHanville. Sprawl is almost always unintentional. This has the potential to be
P&Z Commissioner Suzanne Orb said the original proposal voters agreed
on was a 65,000-square-foot hospital. This figure later grew to the 106,000-square-foot
hospital now under construction.
Orb asked why the 106,000 square-foot hospital couldnt accommodate
medical offices also.
Jeff Hull, St. Lukes director of architecture and construction, said
the original 65,000-square-foot proposal would only meet the minimal needs of the valley.
Hull said that as St. Lukes looked into that number, the hospital grew to meet
Hull said there is no space available in the hospital for doctors
He said the size of the proposed medical office building is the result of
the number of physicians in the valley who want to have offices next to the hospital.
Hull offered no rationale for the building height except to say the county
has no limit in the zone.
Sun Valley resident and Ketchum businessman Tim Eagan expressed concern
over the economic impact on the rest of the valley that may result if doctors vacate
offices in Ketchum and Hailey.
"There should be some consideration of the impact on Hailey and
Ketchum," Eagan said. "Theres a lot of space to fill in a
40,000-square-foot office building. Its going to have a huge impact."
The P&Z will revisit the medical office building plan on April 20 at
the old County Courthouse in Hailey at 6:30 p.m.