Friday, October 1, 2004

Ketchum gets ready for talks on annexations

Officials stress importance of recreation, parking, community housing and impact fees

Express Staff Writer

Preservation of recreational amenities emerged as a leading concern among Ketchum city leaders who met Wednesday afternoon to discuss pending annexation applications the city will soon process.

?With additional growth and additional development, we?re going to need more open space and active space,? said Ketchum City Councilwoman Terry Tracy. ?I?m not sure visitors are going to come here to look at our scenery and ride down our bike path.?

City leaders also pointed to traffic and parking, community housing and impact fees as significant concerns to be addressed in any annexation application.

For the first time in a long time, the Ketchum City Council met with the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission in a joint meeting. The pending annexations were the catalyst for the noon meeting at Ketchum City Hall.

Development group Sun Valley Ventures last week submitted an application to annex into Ketchum 48 acres of the approximately 77-acre Warm Springs Ranch property, north of the city?s downtown. Furthermore, Sun Valley Co. is expected in the coming months to a proposal to annex into the city scores of acres it owns around the River Run base area of Bald Mountain.

Both applications are expected to consume a significant amount of time and energy from city staff members and officials alike.

?This is going to take a diligent, considerable effort by every city department,? said Ketchum Planning Administra-tor Harold Moniz.

The process for the applications will begin with city staff members, who will review any annexation proposals. The P&Z will then hold a number of public hearings and make a recommendation to the city council, which will duplicate the effort. The city council?s decision will be final and will not be subject to any appeals, according to City Attorney Benjamin Wost.

According to those who participated in the meeting, the bodies should keep the joint dialogue going to make sure they don?t get to the end of the process and find themselves at an impasse.

Several officials suggested implementing a no-net-loss policy on recreation and parking to help guide their consid-eration of the proposals, but it was unclear whether the group arrived at a consensus.

?No-net-loss is well and good, but I look at it as a balance from one area to another,? Mayor Ed Simon said.

Councilman Randy Hall disagreed.

?In due respect to the mayor, I think what you?re hearing from us is that we don?t want to have any net loss in rec-reation,? he said.

But P&Z Commissioner Greg Strong asked how the city could experience any loss of recreation or parking when the areas in question aren?t even within the city?s borders yet.

?Any recreation that comes into the city is going to be a gain,? he said.

Although Sun Valley Ventures has already submitted an annexation plan Worst advised officials that they should only talk in general terms about what they hope to get out of any theoretical annexation proposal.

?In terms of general annexation issues, you basically shouldn?t discuss it,? he said. Annexation talk should be ?ide-ally non existent,? but if discussions are going to happen anyway, they should occur, ?in extremely broad terms.?

For his part, Simon stressed that the public processes for the annexations would be thorough.

?I want to always ensure that the process occurs in public meetings,? Simon said. ?I would like to look at annexa-tion as an opportunity.?

Simon pointed to opportunities for the city to gain recreation facilities, community housing and financial benefits.

In the dialogue between the two bodies, it appeared officials are bracing for a heavy work load.

Moniz said the annexation proposals the city receives will more than likely be a mix of applications, ?a number of processes and permits for the city to process simultaneously.?

?Most will be pretty complex and have a lot of issues. They?ll be time consuming,? he said.

Councilman Baird Gourlay also predicted a long road.

?I think it will be a daunting task for all of us,? he said. ?We?ll have to watch each other?s tails, if you will, to en-sure that we don?t allow anything that would cause unfair impacts to the community.?

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