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For the week of September 27 through October 3, 2000

Ketchum council set to adopt comp plan tomorrow

Express Staff Writer

It’s been four years in the making. Finally, the city of Ketchum is poised to adopt a new comprehensive plan—a blueprint for the city’s growth over the next 10 to 15 years.

Tomorrow morning, the Ketchum City Council is scheduled to review the draft plan for as long as it takes before adopting it.

The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. at Ketchum City Hall.

The draft comprehensive plan covers issues from land use, economic development and affordable housing to transportation, capital improvements and open space protection.

The planning process began in February of 1997 and continued through a series of public meetings that led to release of the first draft of the plan in June 1998.

That draft was not well accepted by the public, however, and the city’s planners produced a new draft similar to the city’s 1983 comprehensive plan, as the majority of the public had asked.

For the past nine months, city officials have conducted public hearings on the revised draft plan, and a number of changes have resulted.

"It’s been through a lot of public process and it has come out the better for the community input," Ketchum planning administrator Lisa Horowitz said in an interview Monday.

Horowitz said the Ketchum downtown and affordable housing chapters received the most revisions this summer.

"They’re probably the two biggest areas," she said.

For those who haven’t yet spoken their piece about the proposed draft, Thursday morning may be the last chance.

Following are some of the comp plan’s proposed high-profile issues:

 Affordable housing. In hearings this summer, the P&Z heavily revised the plan’s affordable housing chapter, called Community Housing.

"An adequate and diverse housing supply in Ketchum is needed to ensure the viability of town life and businesses and to help alleviate traffic congestion within the city and on Highway 75," the P&Z’s revisions state.

In a series of action plans, the chapter proposes to establish target numbers for affordable housing units, to annually define opportunities to use city property for affordable housing, to identify potential funding sources for affordable housing and to study the feasibility of acquiring land for affordable housing.

An action plan dictating a "no net loss" of affordable housing properties within the city was deleted from the plan in response to public comments late this summer.

 Parking. Parking has been one of the hotly disputed topics in the draft plan. After hours of deliberation and numerous comments from the public, the P&Z and city council decided to institute a policy advocating that "parking should be paid for by the users."

"The city recognizes that there is not enough land area in the [downtown] to meet the parking demand," a comprehensive plan policy states. "On-street parking is primarily for short-term and the visiting public, and secondarily for employees. The private sector must address the true parking impacts and needs of new development in the downtown area."

The section of the plan that deals with parking also advocates working on carpooling incentives for commuters and establishing a within-town shuttle bus.

 Economic development. Though not heavily revised in the past nine months, the economic development chapter of the plan contains several notable policies.

Among them are policies recognizing the importance of second homeowners and tourism to the local economy, as well as recognizing that local businesses are threatened by a diminishing employee work force.

The chapter, not surprisingly, puts a plug in for the city’s affordable housing program.

The chapter also calls for a group of community leaders and business owners to be established to examine the issue of "the high cost of doing business, including rising commercial costs." The group should recommend actions to reduce the costs, the plan states.

Another part of economic development the draft plan recognizes is the need to protect short-term tourist accommodations from redevelopment.

 Downtown core development. Earlier this summer the city’s leaders adopted the section of the plan that dictates downtown planning issues, but other parts of the plan contain language pertaining to the ever-controversial topic of commercial building height and size.

For example, the plan’s land use chapter dictates, "Change the zoning code to establish a maximum building size for commercial and for residential structures."

The comprehensive plan and current revisions to the city’s design review ordinances are closely tied, though distinctly separate. The new design review ordinances—scheduled for adoption near the end of October—will primarily regulate building height and size in the downtown area, as well as establish design guidelines developers will have to follow.


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