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For the week of August 30 through September 5, 2000

Residents shun development bonuses

"When you give these bonuses for architects to play with, we’re going to get airplanes when you asked for submarines."

Pawan Mehra, Sun Valley resident

Express Staff Writer

Of nearly 60 local residents who packed Ketchum City Hall on Monday night to comment on a draft of proposed design review standards, most supported the tighter guidelines.

According to findings in the draft standards, which were collected from locals this spring and summer, Ketchum residents wish to preserve the city’s small-town character, definable neighborhoods, mature landscaping, a blend of mountain and valley features and an eclectic downtown area.

The design review standards, once adopted, will regulate everything from building height, materials that may be used, to the amount of open space that will be required on a lot.

They call for preserving natural features, connecting open spaces to produce larger areas, encouraging building materials that establish a pedestrian scale, using finishes and colors that are compatible with traditional buildings, making sure a building’s entrance is clearly defined and minimizing storm water runoff.

And that’s just a smidgen of what’s in the document.

On Monday, the public focused primarily on buildings’ sizes and masses.

Nearly all who spoke said they oppose the draft standards’ proposal to offer incentives to developers who build affordable housing, despite their general approval of the document. In fact, they said they don’t want to see bonuses or incentives as part of the new standards at all.

"When you give these bonuses for architects to play with, we’re going to get airplanes when you asked for submarines," Sun Valley resident Pawan Mehra told the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission, which presided over the meeting.

The city’s existing design standards offer increased development densities to developers who build affordable housing or underground parking.

The draft standards, compiled by Ketchum’s design review consultant Nore Winter, do away with underground parking but maintain affordable housing as a viable incentive.

Ketchum planning administrator Lisa Horowitz pointed out that several rounds of redrafting are still to come. The standards are projected to be completed in October.

Under the current draft proposal, developers could build to a floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.4. With affordable housing, however, developers could build to a 1.75 FAR.

FAR is a building’s floor area divided by its lot size.

Ketchum’s existing standards allow a developer to build to a 2.0 FAR with underground parking or affordable housing.

Some at the meeting said the city should do away with FARs altogether.

"You can have a two-to-three-story building that’s beautiful and you can have an itty bitty building that’s ugly as hell," Ketchum resident Micky Garcia told the commission.

The issue, he said, isn’t about FARs. It’s about architectural design, which the proposed standards handle well, he said.

"It’s amazing to watch Americans come in here and try to hunker [from urbanization]," he said. "This town has got to change. Tallness and bigness [aren’t the issue]."

In general, residents said they approve of the draft standards. Nearly everyone who commented thanked Winter for his involvement in the process and admired the progress that’s been made.

Some, however, said the FAR limits will depreciate property values throughout the city.

"I’m having a hard time being positive about this," Ketchum property owner Linda Badell told the commission. "You’re devaluing our property. If you reduce the FAR, what’s going to happen to the little people inside?"

Badell said a decrease in property resale and development values—based on decreased FARs—will be passed along to tenants, thereby forcing the "little people" out of the local economy.

Hers was a minority opinion, however.

Ketchum resident David Meyer countered by saying, "This is an attempt to maximize buildings without trashing the town. If the town is huge, investment values will plunge."

In the coming week, the P&Z will work to write the draft standards in ordinance form rather than the easy-to-read and understand documents Winter has prepared thus far.

Monday’s meeting was the latest in a series of public meetings that have been held on the topic over the course of the summer. More are yet to come.


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