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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 April 24 - 30, 2002

  News

Neighbors reject new affordable housing site


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon appeared frustrated April 16 at the publicís continued refusal to accept an affordable housing site.

"Itís very discouraging to sit up here and always hear thereís a better site, and we look at site after site after site," he said. "Iím looking for some sense of consensus and support for any site in this community. This process has been discouraging and difficult."

Simonís comments followed a barrage of public comments against a proposed Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue affordable housing complex, which was presented by local citizens as an alternative to the cityís Fourth and Main streets town center site. A structure there would replace a city-owned parking lot.

Former Ketchum Councilman Tom Held, who helped push the Sixth and Leadville site, surprised some and turned on his own idea.

"I think weíre in a transition here," he said. "I think weíre slowly becoming aware of the housing problem and what we should do with it. Leadville is not the best site. Itís one step better (than town center), but itís not the best site."

Held proposed that the city begin studying the park and ride lot at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads, because it is large and a mile away from the cityís center.

In earlier public hearings, Held gave elaborate presentations about the boons of the Sixth and Leadville site in comparison to town center.

Objections to the Sixth and Leadville site ranged from building a large building too near a residential area to losing the parking thatís there now.

Affordable housing "belongs on the fringe or in residential areas," said Terry Ring, owner of Silver Creek Outfitters.

In a straw poll of the approximately 40 residents and store owners in attendance, most agreed the park and ride lot is among the best suited sites in Ketchum for affordable housing. But Ketchum resident Connie McGowan pointed out that the group found consensus so easily, because the meeting was not noticed for the park and ride lot.

City council membersí comments were predictable, in that they didnít vary from previously established positions.

Councilwoman Chris Potters appeared frustrated.

"Over time, itís going to make a big difference to put affordable housing in wherever we can," she said. "We need places in town where young people can come and live. This place is just going to shrivel and die if we donít do this. There are innumerable problems with every site.

"So what are the problems? Do you not want people who canít afford expensive homes? What is it? Thereís no good reason Iíve heard. Not one."

Councilman Maurice Charlat said he heard new information that needed digestion before an educated opinion could be formulated on the Sixth and Leadville site.

He said, however, he was convinced that the park and ride lot could be next on the list of city-owned sites to look at.

"If the Janss Center doesnít make it, the park and ride is next up," he said, adding that "timeís a wastiní. Weíve got to get it done."

In a council discussion that followed, Simon made clear his concerns about the financing proposed for town center.

"The devilís in the details. Thatís what Iíve been saying," he said. "The financing is the key to this. I expect the developer is looking at this as if heís found the pot of gold at the end of the developerís rainbow."

Housing Director Gates Kellett said that in a meeting to come between the city council and a contracted attorney, the city should become more clear about the specifics associated with financing and leasing the site.

"The outside counsel should find ways to make this comfortable for the council," Kellett said. "To me, (the problems) are all things that can be solved."

Charlat agreed. "The fiduciary responsibility we bear for the people who own this land demands that we be pretty hard headed. The fiscal judgment will make this, not the social judgment."

 


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.