Wednesday, December 8, 2004

SV eyes River Run annexation

City's draft land-use map includes high-profile area at base of Bald Mountain

Express Staff Writer

The city of Sun Valley is eyeing an expanded city boundary that could include the River Run base area of Bald Mountain, which Ketchum officials believe should ultimately be under their control.

Although Sun Valley has not determined if it will indeed expand the area from which it could annex land, the city's draft land-use map for the next decade currently calls for including River Run.

Ketchum officials this week said they would strongly object to any move by Sun Valley to annex all or part of approximately 160 acres at River Run owned by Sun Valley Co.

"Obviously, the city would object to any attempt for the city of Sun Valley to annex River Run," Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon said Monday. "The city of Ketchum will do whatever is necessary to preserve our annexation options."

Sun Valley Co.'s land at River Run is located in Blaine County but lies within the city of Ketchum's designated area-of-city-impact boundaries. The Ketchum Comprehensive Plan states unequivocally that Ketchum intends to have jurisdiction over how the prime real estate on the city's southwest side is developed.

Nonetheless, a committee of Sun Valley officials and citizens has now proposed that Sun Valley's area of impact perhaps should be expanded to include River Run. Currently, Sun Valley's western boundary extends to the edges of Lane Ranch and Weyyakin subdivisions, on the east side of Highway 75.

The proposed changes to Sun Valley's area of impact are shown on a land-use map recently developed to accompany an ongoing update of the Sun Valley Comprehensive Plan.

Last week, Wally Huffman, general manager of Sun Valley Co., said he would consider seeking annexation of the company's land at River Run into Sun Valley or Ketchum. He noted, however, that Sun Valley Co. is concerned about how Ketchum officials have managed parts of their city, including Warm Springs Village.

"It's becoming a residential neighborhood with a ski lift in the middle," Huffman said.

Last spring, Sun Valley Co. released a long-term master development plan that calls for developing a new luxury hotel, hundreds of residential units and a multi-level parking structure at River Run.

The conceptual plan for River Run was put forth by Sun Valley Co. as part of a larger master plan for developing portions of the company's 2,800 acres of land in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area.

Huffman originally indicated that Sun Valley Co. would likely seek to annex its River Run property into Ketchum before the end of this year. To date, no application has been filed at Ketchum City Hall.

Simon said annexing River Run into Sun Valley would create "major problems," largely because Sun Valley would have to direct any services for the area through the heart of Ketchum.

Harold Moniz, Ketchum planning director, said an effort by Sun Valley to annex River Run could violate the terms of existing agreements that call for any annexation at River Run to go to Ketchum.

"I think it certainly would reopen a lot of work that was done 10 years ago, when the cities and the county agreed what the zones of impact would be," Moniz said.

An annexation of River Run into Sun Valley would likely spawn legal challenges, Moniz added.

Specifically, the Sun Valley Co. draft plan for River Run includes:

· A new 200-room luxury hotel immediately southeast of the existing River Run Day Lodge.

· A new 1,500-space parking structure immediately east of the proposed hotel site.

· Up to 478 new residential units scattered throughout the higher elevations of the property.

· Limited commercial space.

By annexing River Run, Ketchum would gain control over development there and could ask for a variety of public benefits to meet the provision for public services in the area.

For either city, annexation would bring large volumes of tax dollars and development-related fees.

The city of Sun Valley's draft land-use map calls for possibly extending the city's area of impact not only to the west, but also to the south and east.

However, as Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commissioner Nils Ribi noted, "putting the lines on the map do not make it so."

The map has not been reviewed by the public or approved by the city.

Sun Valley will present its land-use map to the public on Jan. 6. City officials expect to approve a version of the map and the comprehensive plan update next spring.

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