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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of March 6 - 12, 2002


P&Z discusses making affordable housing mandatory

Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission last week said that it may consider making affordable housing a required part of future subdivisions.

For five years, county planners have struggled to draft an ordinance that would give real estate developers an incentive to build affordable housing on their own. The incentive: Developers could build at a higher density than current zoning allows, if the prices of some of that housing remains restricted.

But the P&Z has had difficulty balancing county needs with the needs of developers. If the county places too many restrictions on developers in the name of good planning, developers might not be enticed to voluntarily build affordable housing.

P&Z commissioner Judy Harrison, for example, wants developers to buy development rights for affordable housing under a complicated system of Transferable Development Rights that the county has not yet perfected. TDRs could scare developers away from affordable housing.

During a meeting Thursday night, the P&Z hit upon an idea that could help the county get what it wants.

"Why are we avoiding mandatory" housing?, asked Chairwoman Suzanne Orb, broaching a question that could drastically change the county’s approach to the issue.

"I would be supportive of both mandatory and non-mandatory," said Gates Kellett, director of the Blaine County Housing Authority, which promotes housing for low- and middle-income residents.

One scenario the P&Z considered could involve making construction of affordable housing mandatory near Ketchum, where the need is greatest, and making it non-mandatory farther south.

That, combined with a system allowing developers to pay the housing authority a fee in lieu of actually building the housing, could generate money for the housing authority, Kellett said. The housing authority could use the money for its own projects.

The P&Z is a long way from completing the proposed housing ordinance, and would need to work out the details of a mandatory affordable housing rule, if it decided to create one. The P&Z is scheduled to meet today at 4 p.m. to discuss the proposed ordinance at the Old County Courthouse.

The county could create an affordable housing rule by changing its existing subdivision ordinance, rather than writing a new ordinance.

Anjie Saunders, representing the Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth advocacy group, praised Orb and Harrison for being "courageous" enough to suggest a mandatory housing rule.

The P&Z has been criticized for moving too slowly on the proposed ordinance and even of sabotaging it by making it too complex.

But Orb disputed that criticism. The P&Z has "moved through" the four drafts of the ordinance in a way meant to improve them, not thwart them, she said.

"Hopefully, the ordinance has gotten better every time we’ve gone through it," she said.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.