Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Can slice of Ketchum history be saved?

Plan pursued to preserve Bald Mountain Lodge cabins

Express Staff Writer

Anne Zauner is campaigning to save the remaining cabins of the old Bald Mountain Lodge on Ketchum's Main Street.

The source of Anne Zauner's passion can be found on the edge of a deserted lot, beyond hip-high weeds and tossed-out two-by-fours.

The remaining cabins of the Bald Mountain Lodge on Ketchum's Main Street hold more than a little promise for the history enthusiast, but her time for finding them a new home is running out.

The site's owners gave Zauner a June 20 deadline to take the cabins away, but relocation regulations have presented her with unanticipated problems.

For now, the owners have extended her deadline.

"They're giving us a little more time because I have some prospects of places to move them," Zauner said. "The new developer should be thanked. He's offering them free for the taking."

Zauner is meeting this week with a Blaine County property owner who has a commercially zoned parcel of land that could temporarily accommodate the building.

But even if the owner agrees to house the cabins, their relocation is another matter.

"Getting them there is more complicated than I ever dreamed," Zauner said.

A demolition permit, engineering studies, a moving permit, fire district approvals and planning and zoning reviews are all part of the process, said Bill Dyer, building official with the Blaine County Building Department.

"Simultaneously, the interested party should be doing due diligence," Dyer said.

That means Zauner has to determine whether the buildings are structurally sound for moving and that they comply, before they're moved, with modern building codes.

"Blaine County commissioners have established a policy that is in favor of salvaging structures, providing they can meet building code criteria and the review process," Dyer said. "It's a project; there's no question about it. But all of those details are for the benefit of the applicant."

In an effort to persuade county officials to lighten the restrictions on historic-building relocation, Zauner is planning to appear before county commissioners at their July 5 meeting.

Zauner's vision for the buildings dovetails with recent area efforts to save historic properties, which are disappearing at a rapid rate.

Built in 1929, the Bald Mountain Lodge for decades was a popular hot springs resort. Former owner Brian Barsotti in 2003 sold three of the buildings to a Gooding County duck-hunting club, which then had them moved. However, several of the structures remain at their original Main Street location.

The cabins could be clustered with other historic buildings that can't be saved on their current sites, she said. Together, the structures could form an Old Town Wood River Valley. Or, they could be used as part of a larger museum or serve as office space for nonprofit groups, city offices or affordable housing units.

"It'd be great for tourists, kids—it'd be great for our community character," she said. "The benefits are awe-inspiring. That's where I get my passion."

With the loss of historic buildings, the community loses a connection to people, too, she said.

"Who built the buildings, who used the buildings, who lived in the buildings," she said. "They're part of our heritage and go on for generations."

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