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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 2 - 8, 2003


Ketchum to study
hotel incentives

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum city leaders are proposing to write guidelines that would give hotel developers a blueprint to follow when asking the city to build structures that don’t conform with design ordinances.

In a joint meeting of the Ketchum City Council and Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission Monday night, city leaders decided to form a committee, consisting of two city council members and two P&Z commissioners, that will take a stab at drafting the hotel-specific guidelines. No vote was taken.

The issue of building specificity into the city’s ordinances or zoning code stemmed from a recent city-wide debate on a hotel proposed by Ketchum attorney Brian Barsotti for the full city block on Main Street where the Bald Mountain Lodge is located. The building was proposed to be built using the city’s planned unit development ordinance, which allows the city to trade leniency in its laws for amenities it desires.

In Barsotti’s case, the city would have traded building height and several design requirements for a new hotel, a use city leaders have said they believe is needed in order to nurture the city’s tourism roots and economic base.

The citizens of Ketchum and two city council members, however, said in January that Barsotti’s proposed 59-foot hotel was too tall and too far beyond the city’s 40-foot height limit.

But how tall is too tall, city council members asked Monday night.

"I think the more definitive the guidelines the better, not just for us but for the developer," Councilman Baird Gourlay said.

Councilman Randy Hall made clear that he would not agree to any requests to build hotels taller than 55 feet. That is the minimum Barsotti said he needed for a four-story building.

"It seems like a fourth floor is out," Hall said. "Starting with a three-story model, how high will we go?"

The P&Z and city council did not nail down specifics about leniency they would grant to hotel waiver requests, but they agreed to work on the issues at noticed meetings in the coming weeks.

Ketchum Senior Planner Harold Moniz said any guidelines the city adopts could be added to the city code by amending the city’s "community core" downtown zone. The guidelines could impose maximum heights or setbacks that are more lenient than the city’s existing maximums. For example, if applying for a waiver to the city’s 40-foot height limit, a developer might be told he or she can not go higher than 49 feet, to choose an arbitrary number.

In addition to building height, the city’s requirement that third floors be set back from lower facades by 17 feet is particularly problematic for hotel design, Barsotti said at the Monday meeting. He said that is because hotels are build in blocks, stacked on top of one another, in order to consolidate infrastructure requirements.

Aside from the on-point discussion on waivers and waiver guidelines, the majority of the public testimony given at the meeting was a rehash of last winter’s Barsotti hotel debate.

Some Ketchum citizens perceived the meeting as a back-door negotiation for Barsotti to achieve approval for his hotel proposal, which was remanded to the P&Z in January and has not yet received another hearing.

Ketchum City Attorney Margaret Simms said that, while Barsotti may have been permitted to speak for an extended period on Monday, the meeting was not designed as an exchange between the developer and the city.

Councilman Maurice Charlat raised a more philosophical question, asking if local residents and the city council still view their town as a tourist destination.

"What is our commitment to the notion that our economy is driven by tourist dollars?" he asked. "We are not really focusing on the future. We are trying to deal with everything in the present."


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