Ketchum to study
By GREG STAHL
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
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
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
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."