Building height revisited
Ketchum commission looks into revising height restrictions
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Partially spurred by the construction of a 59-foot facade on GAP chief
executive Mickey Drexlers 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 citys planning staff to redraft a city ordinance that determines maximum
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
In the case of the Drexler home, the citys standard 35 foot height
limit was obeyed, but because the homes height was measured from the sites
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
Ketchums light industrial area and Warm Springs neighborhoods.
Early in the summer, after Drexlers 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 homes height to increase in contours or
steps that conform to a hillsides 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
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,
Several Drexler neighbors were at the meeting and voiced approval of the
"We dont want 60-foot-high buildings in our downtown, and we
dont want 60-foot-high buildings in our neighborhoods," Knob Hill resident Mary
One resident asked the commission how the Drexler home was approved in the
Ripsom, reciting a well-used statement he coined during an interview with
the Mountain Express, said: "We didnt think it was going to skyline like
it does, but it does."
three proposals were offered to the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night in
its consideration of how best to rewrite the citys ordinances in respect to
residential building height. Courtesy Ketchum planning office. Express graphic by