Friday, July 15, 2005

Panel advances plan to save historic buildings

Historic Preservation Commission wants Ketchum to allow new set of TDRs

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum?s Forest Service Park and its buildings are among sites listed on a preliminary survey of historic properties in the city. Claudia Walsworth, who is conducting the survey, is in the process of developing an application to nominate the park to the National Register of Historic Places, the first such application for a Ketchum site in more than 20 years. The park?s 1930s-era buildings were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and now house the Ketchum/Sun Valley Heritage and Ski Museum. Photo by Jeanne Flowers

A potential market of buyers scooping up historic properties could come from an unlikely segment of the population: developers.

The notion of creating incentives for historic preservation gained approval from the Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission when they voted Wednesday, July 13, to draft an amendment to city code allowing for a transfer of development rights.

"The premise is to have a large enough incentive to entice some owners of historic buildings in town to forever preserve that," said Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commissioner Jack Rutherford, who is working on a draft amendment. "It's a significant issue but we have to offer something with significant benefits."

The plan would expand an existing TDR ordinance to include a special category called historical development rights.

An owner of a historic building could sell off the development rights to that building, allowing the buyer to build taller buildings elsewhere while cementing the historic structure's status as is.

"You're really giving up in perpetuity the development rights," said Historic Preservation Commissioner Andy Sable. "To sell the development rights you've got to be well compensated."

Allowing developers to build on an extra floor, for example, could result in developers buying historic structures in order to gain that benefit for a new building.

Commissioners said that was a likely and acceptable scenario.

"It creates another market," said architect Jim Ruscitto, chairman of the commission.

"We have so few historical buildings, we really are at a point where we have to do something to keep them," Rutherford said.

Currently, zoning codes allow buildings in the downtown core to be 40 feet high with a pitched roof or 38 feet, 6 inches with a flat roof. Rutherford proposed extending that to 52 feet with the transfer of development rights.

Commissioner Ned Hogan expressed concern that taller buildings could impact the look of the city's core, but Ruscitto said the impact would be very limited.

"There's a built-in controlling factor because there aren't that many potential buildings that would qualify," he said.

"Design review standards would control architectural elements," he added.

Commissioner Tory Canfield suggested the design review standards be amended so they are "complementary to the buildings we are trying to preserve."

Criteria for what is historically significant would have to be created.

"The City Council holds the trigger to whether a building is historical or not," Rutherford said.

A draft proposal will be written and presented to the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission for review. Any such change to city code would ultimately have to be approved by the City Council.

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