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Friday — February 20, 2004


Ketchum considers
real estate questions

New city hall at center of debate

"I think we need to decide what
the taxpayers are willing to pay for."

BAIRD GOURLAY, City councilman

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Council members this week initiated the difficult process of determining how the city can acquire enough land within its boundaries to support future civic projects, including a new or expanded city hall.

In a special meeting Tuesday, Feb. 17, the panel considered a detailed proposal from Ketchum hotel operator Joe Koenig, who said he believes the city needs to act quickly to acquire land before the relatively short supply of undeveloped parcels in central Ketchum is diminished.

"People want a functioning, nice town," Koenig said. "Let’s do something."

Reading a long prepared statement to the council, Koenig said he believes the city needs to plan now to address its needs for a larger city hall, community housing, public parking, street lighting and park facilities with public restrooms.

Koenig suggested the city consider several specific land acquisitions to accommodate the needs of Ketchum residents, workers and visitors.

"All this could be paid for with a bond election," he said. "The sewer bond was passed almost unanimously recently. The benefits of more parking, pocket parks, and centrally located city services would surely appeal to most residents."

Koenig, who operates the Knob Hill Inn north of downtown Ketchum, also advocated several policy changes.

Koenig said he supports a pending city proposal to allow housing in the upper levels of buildings in the city’s light-industrial districts.

At the same time, he called for a review of the city’s so-called "Dark Sky Ordinance" to ensure street lighting can adequately illuminate Ketchum’s public thoroughfares.

In addition, Koenig proposed that any housing developed on the "Simplot" parcel west of the Ketchum Post Office should be made available to local emergency workers and other public servants.

"If everybody buys all the lots in town, then there can be no more housing," he said.

Koenig’s proposals sparked a flurry of comments from City Council members and Mayor Ed Simon.

Simon said he believes bond elections "present a tremendous opportunity" to pursue projects that could make Ketchum "more livable."

Council President Randy Hall said he met personally with Koenig and is "excited" about the ideas he brought forth.

Hall said he agrees with Koenig that the city should not immediately pursue building a new city hall in a separate location from that of the existing municipal center on East Avenue.

Hall said he advocates taking plans to move Ketchum City Hall "off the table" while working to draft a master plan to redevelop the city’s East Avenue property.

Councilman Baird Gourlay said the city should look carefully at any new bond proposals, in part because the city will likely ask voters later this year to approve a $3 million appropriation to the proposed Wood River Community YMCA project.

"I think we need to decide what the taxpayers are willing to pay for," Gourlay said.


City of Ketchum

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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.