Friday, April 15, 2005

Hearing set on Hemingway home

Express Staff Writer

A special public hearing Tuesday, April 19, will bring together the Ketchum City Council and members of the public to discuss changing the wording of a city code that, if approved, could allow public access to the onetime Ketchum residence of author Ernest Hemingway.

"There's a lot of public support and opposition for this text amendment," said Harold Moniz, Ketchum planning director. "The mayor and council wanted to give their full attention to this."

The Nature Conservancy, which owns the Hemingway property, wants the city to add a provision under the conditional-use-permit section of city law to allow limited public tours, educational programs and workshops at the historic house. The city has decided it would be appropriate to make the amendment apply to all zoning districts.

"They (TNC) asked to amend that particular paragraph in the code," Moniz said. "The Planning and Zoning Commission decided they wanted it to include more potential properties than just (the Hemingway) preserve. They made it a conditional use in all zones."

Last winter, TNC sought public comments on what to do with the Hemingway property and ultimately decided to pursue a plan that would provide limited public access.

The proposed text amendment would most immediately, and for now exclusively, affect the 13-acre property northwest of central Ketchum that Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Mary, called home the last two years of the writer's life.

The site has been the subject of heated debate for more than a year. In 2003, TNC put forward a plan to turn management of the home over to the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, a nonprofit group founded in part by Mariel Hemingway, Hemingway's granddaughter. Under that plan, TNC would retain a conservation easement on the land around the house to maintain it as a nature preserve.

The meeting Tuesday is for discussion only; no action will be taken, city officials said. If the City Council decides to move ahead and consider the amendment, the matter would be put on an agenda at a future council meeting, said Mayor Ed Simon.

If the text amendment is eventually approved, TNC and the IHHF could then seek a conditional-use permit to allow the public to access the Limited Residential-zoned Hemingway estate.

Some area residents are opposed to the idea of having public uses in a residential zoning district, said attorney Gary Slette, who has been retained by a group of Hemingway House neighbors.

Slette's clients are also opposed to broadening the use of a private driveway in their neighborhood that accesses the Hemingway property.

A negotiated easement allowed for use of a 15-foot-wide roadway, Slette said, but if the public has access to the house, the Ketchum Fire Department would likely require a 20-foot-wide road.

Simon said that because it's not a public road, the city won't likely get involved in that aspect of the dispute.

"We have to have a consistent application of the law and whatever we do must pass legal muster," Simon said.

Slette was set to meet with his clients Thursday to decide their next course of action.

The special meeting Tuesday is scheduled to commence at 5:30 p.m. in Ketchum City Hall.

Public meeting

The Ketchum City Council will hold a special meeting and public hearing next week to discuss a proposed code amendment that could allow public access to the onetime Ketchum residence of writer Ernest Hemingway. The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, at Ketchum City Hall.

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