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For the week of September 27 through October 3, 2000

P&Z approves new design review ordinance

Council to review measure next month

Express Staff Writer

It’s been months in the making, but the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission finally voted on and unanimously approved new design review criteria for the city’s downtown core Monday night.

Now it’ll be up to the Ketchum City Council to put the finishing touches on the summer-long project, which was initiated in response to construction of buildings the city’s officials deemed too large for the resort city’s small-town atmosphere.

"There’s no question we need to change it," Councilman David Hutchinson said in regard to the city’s design review ordinance at a meeting early this summer.

After members of the public rehashed the entire debate, digging up issues that had been laid to rest months ago, the P&Z settled on a scale of floor area ratios (FARs) the city will use—if the council approves them—to help control building mass.

FAR, simply put, is a building’s square footage divided by its lot size.

The P&Z endorsed a base FAR of 1.3 and an incentive of 1.8 for developers providing at least 35 percent affordable housing as part of a downtown project.

Formerly the city allowed a base FAR of 1.4 with a bonus of up to 2.0 for developers who provided affordable housing or underground parking.

The proposed ordinance gives developers the option of building their affordable housing units off site. But if they choose to do so, they are required to build the affordable components at a ratio of 1.5 units for every one that would have been provided on-site.

Instead of pursuing underground parking as an incentive, the P&Z decided to mandate that buildings over a 1.3 FAR, and that are built on double lots or larger, include underground parking.

Commissioners Peter Gray and Susan Scovell said they were concerned that an incentive up to 1.8 would be too high, resulting in buildings that are still too big and bulky.

Ketchum Realtor Dick Fenton, however, reminded the commission that other new criteria, established with the help of consultant Nore Winter over the summer, will change the way buildings are designed, producing more handsome structures at similar sizes.

"Let’s take advantage of what we’ve learned. Let’s not be afraid of our mistakes of the past," he said.

Among the policies contained in the ordinance that will further regulate commercial building designs are a 25 percent open space requirement (based on lot size), a 10- to 13-foot setback from all streets, horizontal wall break requirements and a requirement that buildings’ third floors must be set back 12 feet from the floor below them on any street front.

When someone asked how the new standards are going to work with the new FARs, P&Z Chairman Peter Ripsom said, "We just have to go for it."

Building heights will be limited to 30 feet for two story structures with flat roofs and 40 feet for buildings with gabled roofs. Three story buildings will be limited to 40 feet, whether flat roofed or gabled.

The proposed ordinance also contains another very interesting proposal.

"Transferable development rights" would be instituted to help preserve "community historic structures," buildings 50 years or older.

On lots containing such structures, "a portion of the development potential of any property within the [downtown] may be transferred to a designated receiving site within the [downtown]," the proposed ordinance reads.

The receiving property can get an increased FAR up to a maximum of 1.8. The right can be transferred from a lot owned by one person to one owned by another.

Ketchum’s usually squawky contingent of developers and Realtors was conspicuously silent on the proposal.

Fenton, explaining the concept to Ketchum lawyer and developer Brian Barsotti, said he could transfer development rights to a property to achieve a 1.8 FAR "instead of providing affordable housing."

His read of the ordinance went unchallenged by the commission.

The driving force behind the new policies was two-fold. The city wants smaller buildings and affordable housing, Commissioner Scovell said.

"But make no mistake," Ketchum city attorney Margaret Simms said. "This is not the city’s solution to affordable housing. This is just one step."

The Ketchum City Council is scheduled to review the ordinance on Oct. 2, Oct. 16 and at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting during the week of Oct. 23. The Oct. 2 meeting will begin at 6 p.m.


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