Wednesday, December 8, 2004

YMCA resolution prompts furor

Citizens, Ketchum council denounce handling of proposed recreation center

Express Staff Writer

A simple plan to allow the Wood River Community YMCA to submit a set of development applications to the city of Ketchum erupted into a storm of controversy this week.

Late Monday, Dec. 6, Ketchum City Council members and a group of citizens launched separate attacks on a proposed resolution that—at least from the city's perspective—should have sparked little or no public debate.

The resolution called for "authorizing the mayor to consent to any and all applications for permits and approvals by the Wood River Community YMCA to construct a cultural and recreational facility on the city-owned Park and Ride Lot."

After citizens last month approved a plan for the city to lease to the YMCA a 25 percent portion of the Park and Ride Lot, the Ketchum-based organization submitted plans to develop an approximately 80,000-square-foot building on the site, located at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads.

Concerned that some citizens had read the city's proposed resolution as a plan to allow the YMCA to circumvent the lengthy review process for large development projects, Mayor Ed Simon Monday assured the public that nothing devious was going on.

Because the city owns the 5.8-acre Park and Ride site, Simon said, it must simply make a determination to allow the YMCA to submit an application to develop any part of the parcel.

"It's only giving preliminary consent to the YMCA to make an application," he said of the resolution.

Councilwoman Terry Tracy immediately objected to the resolution, saying she believes it was misleading and inadequately defined the area of the lot the YMCA would be allowed to develop.

The resolution simply referred to the Park and Ride Lot in its entirety.

Council members Baird Gourlay and Randy Hall then chastised the mayor and his staff for putting the resolution before them, after they had been told the YMCA discussion would focus on a 99-year lease the city intends give to the organization.

"This is an important issue. We cannot afford to have any miscues along the way," Hall said. "I'm upset. I don't know what the hell we're doing."

Then, several citizens who have previously spoken out against the city's handling of the YMCA proposal said the resolution could bring problems.

Ketchum resident Jack Corrock said the city should negotiate a lease with the YMCA before processing its development application.

"Why are you walking into this mire?" he asked. "Get the lease done."

Anne Corrock, a member of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission, expressed concern that the resolution implies the YMCA will control development of the entire Park and Ride site.

"It just seems as though you're giving the Y the entire parcel for their application," she said.

In fact, said City Attorney Ben Worst, the YMCA application "will encompass the whole lot," but the YMCA—through its lease with the city—will be restricted to developing only about 25 percent of the area.

The council ultimately directed city staff to rewrite the resolution. The council and the mayor have scheduled a special meeting for noon Thursday, Dec. 9, to approve the resolution and discuss the YMCA lease.

The Ketchum P&Z is scheduled to conduct an initial review of the YMCA's plans on Monday, Dec. 13.

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