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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


Don’t derail Town Center

The "opposition only" hearing on the Town Center development brought out alternative proposals for affordable housing in Ketchum Monday night.

It was refreshing to see new concepts instead of hearing the same old bad raps on affordable housing. Even so, the concepts should not be allowed to derail the city’s progress on Town Center, which includes commercial space and apartments.

The proposed Town Center concept—shops, offices and residence apartments¾ has much to recommend it.

Town Center would be built on city-owned property by a private developer with the benefit of federal tax credits for development of affordable housing. The developer would also have the benefit of a below-market lease on the land from the city.

The property is the site of the visitors’ center and old City Hall.

Town Center meets the oft-stated demand by the city of Ketchum that it "not get into the housing business."

Sited downtown on Main Street, the development also avoided the kind of heated neighborhood opposition that threatened the Fields at Warm Springs, the first private development in the city that included price-controlled units in exchange for a density bonus.

The alternatives presented Monday night would require the city to change its policy. They would get the city into both development and housing management. They could face potentially insurmountable hurdles.

The alternatives, both apartment and parking complexes on city-owned land on Leadville Avenue, would require financing with a revenue bond whose proceeds would be paid back with rental income.

A revenue bond would require approval of 66.7 percent of voters, a high hurdle, indeed. It also may require the backing of either property taxes or local option taxes to secure good interest rates and to make it desirable to bond buyers. Backing it with local-option sales tax revenues would require separate approval by voters—another hurdle.

The city has always had the option of using revenue bonds to develop housing, but rejected them in favor of pursuing public/private partnerships.

If the city’s political climate has changed enough that two-thirds of voters want to put the city in the housing business, that would be great. The more tools the city has to meet the need for housing, the better.

In the meantime, the city shouldn’t stop the Town Center project to pursue a new one with a guaranteed host of obstacles.


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.