Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Ketchum eyes new city planning agenda

Council vows to cooperate more with P&Z

Express Staff Writer

Providing affordable housing, revitalizing the commercial core and managing growth topped a list of priorities set this week during a rare meeting of the Ketchum City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

But, as city leaders vowed to focus on numerous projects to make Ketchum a better place to live and do business, the public asked them to look beyond the city limits and take a regional approach to treating the town's growing pains.

The point of the Monday, Nov. 29, meeting that Council President Randy Hall called "long overdue" was for P&Z and council members to come to some agreement on how the city should spend its planning-related time and resources in the coming calendar year.

Most P&Z members agreed that they want to see the city make a better effort to assert the public's needs as private development proceeds at a blistering pace.

P&Z Commissioner Ron Parsons said he wants to see the city make a concerted effort to increase the local stock of deed-restricted community housing.

"Is this really a priority for the city or not?" he asked.

In a baseball-related metaphor, Parsons said the city is "hitting singles all the time," but might not ever find its way to home plate.

Parsons said he is also concerned about ensuring the city does a good job handling a pair of major annexations that are expected to be before the P&Z and council in 2005.

The owners of Warm Springs Ranch, north of downtown, have already applied to annex most of that property into the city, while the Sun Valley Co. is expected to seek annexation of scores of acres of land around the River Run Lodge, southwest of downtown.

"These annexations are huge," Parsons said. "They are going to change the way this place looks and feels."

In the end, P&Z commissioners agreed they would like to focus their time not only on the proposed annexations, but also on efforts to install sidewalks and lighting in Ketchum's core and establish more community housing.

At the same time, commissioners said, they would like to rewrite parts of the city's zoning code that are ambiguous and complete an ongoing project to rewrite the zoning regulations for the city's light-industrial districts.

Some citizens applauded the discussion but told city officials they will not solve all of Ketchum's planning problems internally without cooperating with other local governments.

Christopher Simms, executive director of Hailey-based Citizens for Smart Growth, said the city should consider facilitating creation of a "regional council of governments" to work on large-scale growth issues.

The council and the P&Z agreed to meet again on Jan. 31.

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