proposed to Town Center
Express Staff Writer
outpouring of citizen involvement Monday night slowed momentum toward
construction of Ketchum’s controversial Town Center project, but opened
potential new directions for affordable housing.
council had voted in December to seek federal grant money to help fund an
office and apartment complex that would be built at a cost of almost $5
million on a city-owned lot on Main Street that now houses the Sun
Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce offices. As proposed, the Town Center
would provide 20 units of rent-controlled affordable housing.
considerable opposition to the project was prompted by its expensive, Main
Street location and the proposed financing method, which is via a 50-year
lease of the city property to a developer and lender. Mayor Ed Simon
scheduled a public hearing for Monday’s council meeting specifically to
hear "objections" to the project. About 45 people attended.
hearing, former councilman Tom Held, a structural engineer, and Milton
Adam, a retired engineer, presented similar proposals for projects
containing only affordable housing at an alternative location—the city’s
parking lot at Leadville Avenue and Sixth Street, next to the 511
Building. Held said construction of his proposed 28-unit project, which
would also contain 52 parking spaces, would save the city $65 million over
two gentlemen have been doing what the city should have been doing all
along," said Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioner Rod Sievers.
A host of
unresolved, complex issues remained following their proposals and
subsequent discussion. A second public hearing is scheduled for March 20
at 5:30 p.m. to take input, both pro and con, to the Town Center and a
project similar to those proposed by Held and Adam.
comments that the two men’s proposals showed that the city could benefit
by seeking more citizen input, Simon started a sign-up list for a citizen
committee to help plan uses for all city-owned property.
been really thrilled by the kind of spirit we’ve had here tonight,"
said Pam Ritzau, another former council member, in response to numerous
Ritzau’s enthusiasm was not shared by some, who felt the hearing’s
stated intent stacked it in favor of opponents to the Town Center. Mickey
Garcia also pointed out that no architect was on hand to respond to Held’s
contentions that the Town Center, as proposed, would violate Ketchum
ordinances in regard to height, setbacks and required parking.
contended that due to the proposed building’s violation of height
limits, with 14-foot-high ceilings on the first floor to accommodate
commercial space, only 15 residential units could be built.
said the existing concept of the Town Center as a combined commercial and
residential structure greatly increases its cost. He said a building such
as the one he was proposing could be built for half that of the Town
Center, and would produce more in rents.
proposed that the city raise money for an affordable housing project
through a revenue bond, thereby maintaining ownership of it. He contended
that such a financing method would generate $57 million in income over 50
using our land and making money off it and providing housing," he
the passage of a bond to allow the city to build a project directly would
require approval of two-thirds of its voters. David Kipping, chair of the
Blaine County Housing Authority, questioned whether that is likely.
the city want to get into the business of affordable housing?" he
asked. "The answer four years ago was no."
former Mayor Jerry Seiffert raised the point that efforts to build a
project similar to those proposed by Held and Adam would not require
abandonment of the Town Center idea; both tracks could proceed
case, Monday’s discussion revealed the potential for unexplored
finally looking at alternatives in a sane and sensible way," said
Councilman Maurice Charlot.
business, the council voted unanimously to draft an ordinance to reduce
the speed limit at the southern end of town from 45 miles per hour to 35
miles per hour. The action came as a result of a request by Mortgage Row
Chief Cal Nevland, however, advised caution. He said speed limits were set
by the Idaho Transportation Department based on the top speed of the
slowest 85 percent of drivers.
you reduce the speed limit below what 85 percent of people think is
reasonable and prudent, then you’ve got to take a real strong
stand," he said. "It gets close to what the public perceives as
a speed trap."