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For the week of August 30 through September 5, 2000

Building height revisited

Ketchum commission looks into revising height restrictions

Express Staff Writer

Partially spurred by the construction of a 59-foot facade on GAP chief executive Mickey Drexler’s new home on Knob Hill, the city of Ketchum is working on regulations that will revise the way the city measures residential home heights.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously voted for the city’s planning staff to redraft a city ordinance that determines maximum building heights.

The revised ordinance will measure residential buildings from structures’ finished grades rather than from sites’ existing grades.

A draft of the ordinance will be returned to the P&Z for consideration next month.

In the case of the Drexler home, the city’s standard 35 foot height limit was obeyed, but because the home’s height was measured from the site’s existing grade, architects were able to work the extra height into the Knob Hill hillside. What resulted was a 59-foot wall on the downhill side of the home, which faces Ketchum’s light industrial area and Warm Springs neighborhoods.

Early in the summer, after Drexler’s home became an ever-present reminder of what Commissioner Rod Sievers called a "loophole in the ordinances," the Ketchum City Council asked planning staff and P&Z to look into the matter.

Ketchum senior planner Tory Canfield presented to P&Z several options for measuring building height, all of which included measuring from finished grade.

The three options varied in the height that would be permitted as a building steps back into the hillside.

One option limits the roof to 35 feet across a horizontal plain, as measured from the tallest exposed wall. On a steep hillside, that would force most of the home into the hillside.

Another option allowed a home’s height to increase in contours or steps that conform to a hillside’s existing grade. The tallest exposed wall would be measured from finished grade.

The third option would essentially be the same as the second, only the floor height would also be required to rise toward existing grade contours as the roof line stepped up.

The P&Z favored the second option and asked the planning staff to work with it.

The commissioners were also careful to point out that the redraft of the ordinance is not due only to construction of the Drexler home. Several other homes in the Warm Springs area have attained facades higher than 35 feet under the existing ordinance, commissioners said.

Several Drexler neighbors were at the meeting and voiced approval of the city’s plans.

"We don’t want 60-foot-high buildings in our downtown, and we don’t want 60-foot-high buildings in our neighborhoods," Knob Hill resident Mary Werth said.

One resident asked the commission how the Drexler home was approved in the first place.

Ripsom, reciting a well-used statement he coined during an interview with the Mountain Express, said: "We didn’t think it was going to skyline like it does, but it does."

pnz.jpg (50579 bytes)These three proposals were offered to the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night in its consideration of how best to rewrite the city’s ordinances in respect to residential building height. Courtesy Ketchum planning office. Express graphic by Gavin McNeil


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