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For the week of July 9 - 15, 2003


Ketchum hotel clears first hurdle

P&Z endorses design of Bald Mountain Lodge

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Planning and Zoning commissioners last week approved the revised design of a proposed 85,000-square-foot hotel in the downtown core, bringing the plan past the first of several hurdles it must clear to gain final permission.

In a special meeting Wednesday, July 2, the P&Z voted unanimously to issue conditional design-review approval to the proposed so-called "Petite" Bald Mountain Lodge, a scaled-down version of a hotel plan that was turned back by the Ketchum City Council in January.

The 4-0 vote, with Commissioner Rod Sievers absent, came after a series of lengthy testimonials from area residents, both for and against the proposed project. Commissioners at the end of the three-hour meeting methodically determined that the project conformed with 44 separate design-review standards.

However, the P&Z declined to act on a second application submitted as part of the project, that for a planned-unit development conditional use permit. The permit for the PUD—which is essential to the project—will be considered by the P&Z at its next regular meeting Monday, July 14, at 5:30 p.m. in Ketchum City Hall.

At issue is a proposal by Ketchum attorney and developer Brian Barsotti to build an upscale lodge at 151 S. Main St., on the site of the existing Bald Mountain Lodge motor inn. The proposed hotel—which would feature a 3,800 square-foot conference room, 1,000 square-foot board room, and a fitness center—is planned to offer guest rooms at a cost of approximately $225 per night.

Barsotti told the P&Z that he believes the proposed hotel’s design would offset the impacts of its height, which would reach 47 feet at various points. He noted that the proposed square footage of the hotel is within the city’s established allowances. "There is going to be a big building on this site," he said.

Barsotti noted that he does not want to delay consideration of the revised proposal, despite the fact that the city is preparing to consider relaxing some regulations that pertain to hotel construction in the city center. "We’ve been at this long enough. We think it’s time to get an answer," he said.

The city’s 40-foot height limit for hotels is one regulation it may amend to allow developers more flexibility in design.

Project architect Larry Stricker said only "a very small percentage of the entire site" would exceed the existing height limit. The initial design of the hotel—which was approved by the P&Z but not by the City Council—included a maximum roofline height of 59 feet.

Approximately 35 area residents attended the hearing, with about half of the audience making comments on the new proposal.

Of those who commented, supporters of the project outnumbered opponents.

Bob Nero, president of the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said his organization supports the Bald Mountain Lodge proposal. "A property like this will really be a benefit, I think," he said.

Jerry Seiffert, mayor of Ketchum from 1975 to 1988, said he believes the scale and design of the proposed hotel would be appropriate for downtown Ketchum. "This application meets all the criteria for a great place," he said. "There’s no reason you should turn it down."

Ketchum resident Steve Hogan said he believes the project’s parking appears to be inadequate, and asked whether Barsotti would run the operation as a "true hotel," or a combination of timeshare units and hotel rooms.

Barsotti said he "wants to run a hotel," but might eventually consider selling some units as timeshare residences.

Ketchum resident Jake Jacoby, who has been a strong critic of the project, said he is not opposed to new hotels, but is opposed to the city granting Barsotti any of three waivers requested as part of his PUD.

The waivers—including one to the city’s 40-foot height limit—will likely be considered at the P&Z’s July 14 review of the project.

If the P&Z endorses the PUD application, it will be forwarded to the City Council with a recommendation that they approve the plan.

Commissioners last week did not formally decide whether they approve of a proposed clock tower on the building that would reach a height of 59 feet.

Barsotti said he thinks the tower "is a nice element," but is "not critical to the project."

Commissioner Ron Parsons said he is not in favor of the tower, but otherwise thinks "the project looks really nice."

The panel will likely consider at their July 14 meeting whether the tower should be allowed through the PUD process.



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