Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Developers propose community housing

23-acre development would include 126 new homes

Express Staff Writer

A team of Wood River Valley developers is about to test local residents? continued appetite for community housing.

?The plan is to develop a neighborhood of houses that would be appropriate for the local working person or family,? said Ketchum developer George Kirk.

Kirk and Robert Kantor submitted an application to the Blaine County Planning Department Thursday, Sept. 7, proposing to build 126 homes, 43 of which would be saddled with deed restrictions to limit their initial costs and ongoing inflation. The development, to be called Clearcreek Meadows, would be built on 23 acres of land south of the St. Luke?s Wood River Medical Center on the east side of Highway 75.

The plan includes north and south neighborhoods that would be separated by properties, including the Wood River Animal Center and Clear Creek Disposal properties. The northern neighborhood would include 54 homes, and the southern neighborhood would include 48 duplexes and 24 homes.

All of the community housing units at Clearcreek Meadows would range in price from $140,000 to $220,000, and the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority would manage the deed-restricted units.

?I think that the term community housing is an appropriate one,? Kirk said. ?In order for us to provide it, the generic us?we as a community?then everyone within the community is going to have to offer something up.?

The development was made possible by a community-housing ordinance unanimously passed by the Blaine County Commission on May 3.

The Community Housing Planned Unit Development ordinance allows developers to ask for higher developable densities if they propose to build deed-restricted community housing. In the case of Clearcreek Meadows, densities would average 5.23 units per acre. Current zoning in the southern neighborhood would allow 2.5 units per acres, and zoning in the northern neighborhood would allow one unit per acre.

The two neighborhoods would include community storage, a community building, ?significant? open space and recreation areas.

?Not including people?s back yards, almost 25 percent of the project is open space,? Kirk said. ?When you count people?s back yards, you?re talking about 60 percent of it being open space.?

The project will include bike path access, bus stops, basketball areas, playgrounds and a community garden.

?I think it makes for a viable, livable neighborhood,? Kirk said. ?From the onset, it was our aim, and the aim of Living Architecture, who was our planner on the deal, to make it work. We think the community works.?

Although the county?s new ordinance originally would have applied on a countywide basis, objections from the cities of Hailey and Bellevue triggered a large-scale rollback of the lands proposed to be included.

The county commission eventually settled on a 2-square-mile area in and around McHanville south of Ketchum. The area happens to include the land proposed for development as Clearcreek Meadows.

According to a 2002 Blaine County Housing Needs Assessment, the county is 665 units short of fulfilling its community housing need, and 1,167 Blaine County employees commuted from outside the county, a 40 percent increase over numbers compiled in 1997.

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