County to consider
two new St. Lukes applications
Hospital wants office building, reduced roadwork commitment
By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer
County planners are scheduled to revisit two new construction applications
from St. Lukes hospital this week: one to build a 40,000-square-foot medical office
building and another to build a three-lane section of highwayrather than a planned
five-lane sectionadjacent to the new medical complex south of Ketchum.
As a condition to the 1999 permit agreement for the new St. Lukes
hospital, Blaine County required that St. Lukes build a five-lane section of highway
to handle extra traffic generated by the hospital.
Now, St. Lukes says that requirement should be dropped because of
the indefinite postponement of a similar highway expansion throughout the county by the
Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).
Separately, the planned office building, hospital officials say, is
necessary to ensure the financial viability of the non-profit St. Lukes Wood River
The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission has scheduled a special
public hearing for tomorrow at 6:30 p.m., at the old Blaine County Courthouse to consider
both applications. The meeting will continue previous discussion begun on March 9.
During the meeting on that date, Jeff Hull, representing St. Lukes,
told the P&Z that a 1998 traffic impact study showed increased traffic generated by
the new St. Lukes hospital would only require a three-lane highway. Because of the
ITDs plans to expand Highway 75 to five lanes throughout the valley, however, county
commissioners saddled the hospital with a five-lane expansion, Hull said.
The current request to switch back to three lanes is a "technical
correction," he contended.
St. Lukes representatives stressed the hospitals desire to
eventually honor its commitment to expand to five lanes; however, the representatives
said, St. Lukes did not feel compelled to post a bond or financial guarantee for
future highway work.
The March 9 P&Z discussion of St. Lukes application to construct
its proposed office building centered on design issues, such as snow storage, fire access,
parking and construction materials.
Speakers during public comment, however, questioned the need for the
In a written statement, president of Blaine County Citizens for Smart
Growth, Steven Wolper, reminded the P&Z that St. Lukes original building permit
allows for the construction of added facilities that are "integral" to the
"Neither convenient nor commercially profitable meets the definition
of integral," Wolper wrote.
Wolper said also that St. Lukes CEO Jon Moses vacillated months
earlier by first telling Blaine County Commissioners the hospital had no immediate plans
to construct an office building, then weeks later telling Ketchum officials there was
overwhelming demand from the medical community for the building.
In an April 17 statement, however, St. Lukes public information
officer Hilary Furlong said, "Hospital officials expressed surprise at recent efforts
to stall the approval of the medical office building."
Plans for a medical office building were identified in a 1995 letter of
intent and site planning announcement, the statement said.