Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wasting away in Geezerville

Jimmy Buffet once sang of "wasting away in Margaritaville." Some people said there was a woman to blame, but he knew, it was his own damn fault.

Ketchum is wasting away, and transforming itself into Geezerville. And, that's its own damn fault.

The signs of Ketchum's hardening of the arteries are multiplying. Like arterial plaque, residential development is threatening to overwhelm the shopping district. Not just as penthouses that leave street levels open for businesses. Large single-family homes and townhouses are being sited in areas where business should be.

The city has imposed a de facto ban on new hotels, refused to build affordable housing, and fought practically every new idea that's come down the pike.

New commercial spaces are not being filled by new tourist-related businesses, but by offices—finance, real estate and such. These aren't exactly what people have in mind when they come to spend time and money in a resort town.

Compared to just a decade ago, downtown is empty and far too quiet after 5 p.m. Some areas are largely deserted except during July and August.

Ketchum's answer to this? Propose another study.

The city planner wants the City Council to hire consultants to figure out how to keep the economic life from draining out of the city like blood from an artery. Unfortunately, the best consultants in the world can't help a city unwilling to take action. If the city doesn't change soon, it will wake up one day soon to find that its residents will have moved elsewhere—along with its economy.

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