Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ketchum conditionally OKs Warm Springs project

Village's future still in balance

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum city leaders voted 2-1 Monday night to conditionally approve a project that had kicked off a weeks-long philosophical discussion about the viability of Warm Springs village as a commercial base area to the Bald Mountain ski area.

In the end, Ketchum attorney and developer Brian Barsotti got preliminary plat approval to turn his Eagle Crest Inn into a 17-unit condominium. The decision was subject to final plat approval not occurring until Sept. 1.

Barsotti said the hotel has not been a viable business, but there is demand for small condominiums. "At this point, I'm willing to talk about anything," he said, adding that he needed preliminary plat approval to satiate his investors on the project.

Additionally, he said that prior to the Sept. 1 final plat approval date, he would join the city and enthusiastically pursue additional options and a conversation with Sun Valley Co. about the future of Warm Springs.

Councilman Baird Gourlay, who owns a Warm Springs business, recused himself from the discussions, and Councilwoman Terry Tracy voted against the approval.

Sun Valley General Manager Wally Huffman "is very interested in a dialogue of some sort about the plan that Sun Valley has for this side of the mountain, and I, for one, am very interested in hearing this plan," Tracy said. "If they are going to put all their assets and energy into River Run, then there is no hope for Warm Springs. I will throw in the towel."

But in the end the council's discussion about the future of Warm Springs was getting in the way of due process for Barsotti's project, said Mayor Ed Simon. Councilman Randy Hall agreed with the mayor and made a motion to approve the preliminary plat of Barsotti's 17-unit condominium project.

Barsotti said he wants answers as much as the city leaders do.

"Sun Valley doesn't use Warm Springs for anything," he said. "Whether they've forgotten about it or what, it doesn't make sense to me. I don't know why, for example, there's a fee for parking at Warm Springs and it's free at River Run.

"I think there's merit in going through these discussions."

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