Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Gourlay runs for second term

Councilman says Ketchum has numerous challenges ahead

Express Staff Writer

With his first term on the Ketchum City Council coming to an end, Baird Gourlay announced Monday his intention to seek voter approval to continue his work on the governing body.

"There's so many things on the table right now that need to be dealt with," he said in an interview Monday, naming annexation, transportation, growth and affordable housing as some of the more vital matters facing the city.

"There's a lot of pressure to improve the landscape of the core, but if we don't have anybody to walk on (new sidewalks), there's not much point," he said. "I've always been an advocate of housing. To me, the (real estate transfer) tax would be the way to fund it."

Such a measure would have to be approved by the Idaho Legislature. But Gourlay said keeping residents in Ketchum and offering employee housing to city staff makes the idea worth pursuing.

Gourlay sees the city's Park and Ride lot north of downtown as a site that could accommodate up to 60 affordable housing units, which could skim the outside of a parking structure.

Grants, in-lieu-of-housing payments made by developers and a partnership with a private entity could help pay for that, he said.

Gourlay was appointed to Ketchum's Planning and Zoning Commission in 1998 and was elected to the City Council in 2001. During his first term, he has been regarded as a no-nonsense legislator who usually speaks his mind.

He said the experience he's had as a P&Z commissioner and then a councilman make him suited for the tasks that lie ahead.

"It's like going to graduate school in your spare time," he said, adding, "There's times when it's really tough and times when it's really satisfying."

He counts the planned Wood River Community YMCA—which the city is providing land for—as one of the more satisfying projects addressed by the council, "because of my belief in civic associations and what they can do for the community at large."

"One of the more frustrating things, which I can't comment on, is the Warm Springs (Ranch applications)," he said.

Applicant Sun Valley Ventures sought to redevelop the Warm Springs Ranch property. Under the proposed plan, nearly 66 acres of the 77-acre site would have to be annexed into Ketchum. The project stalled earlier this month after the hotel partner pulled its support.

"It's frustrating ... the process we went through," Gourlay said. "There's a perception we stopped it. It's really not that way. We just asked for the information that was due us."

Gourlay set off a round of council comments on the plan, which developers said prompted their hotel partner to withdraw.

Gourlay and other council members said they wanted more studies on what a proposed nature preserve would offer in terms of recreation, compared with recreation opportunities that exist in the current incarnation of Warm Springs Ranch.

"The city's 2001 comprehensive plan and public input are what guide me," he said, "and figuring out what benefits to the community will be."

Gourlay said condominium buyers are more willing to pay for the costly square footage in downtown Ketchum, forcing out hotels, stores and restaurants.

Reviewing city ordinances and examining transfers of development rights could provide incentives for more diversity in the city's core, he said.

Gourlay, 47, moved to Ketchum in 1980 and has been a partner in Paul Kenny's Ski & Sports since 1981. In his job, he oversees a group of approximately 20 employees.

"I'm a manager," he said, "and I like to think I do it well."

As a councilman, he helps oversee 80 city employees.

"We're policy makers but we manage department heads to a certain extent," he said.

Although Gourlay said the mayor's position is the most difficult, the council's advisory role is important.

Whether it's interviewing new hires or voting on departments' budgets, council members are active in decision making.

"You ultimately deal with management issues," he said.

"It's probably the toughest job I've ever had," he said of being a council member. "You have to be a planner, a sociologist and a psychologist. You need management skills. You need to mediate, moderate and negotiate. We've had some struggles. It's not always been peachy. Focused management is what we need."

Gourlay's seat is one of two council positions on the Nov. 1 municipal election ballot. The other seat is currently held by Ron Parsons, appointed in May to fill Christina Potters' vacancy on the council when she resigned. Parsons also announced this week that his name will be on the ballot.

Three names are currently on the ballot for mayor, including the incumbent, Mayor Ed Simon. Challenging him are City Council President Randy Hall and former city councilman Maurice Charlat.

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