Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Parsons declares candidacy for Ketchum City Council

'I'm committed to the next four years.'

Express Staff Writer

Ron Parsons, appointed in May to fill Christina Potters' vacancy on the Ketchum City Council, announced this week his intention to get voters' seal of approval for a full term.

Parsons met with media representatives Monday to outline his priorities for Ketchum, including downtown revitalization and community housing, as well as managing the city's growth.

"What I've tried to do in my first couple of months (on the City Council), is to sample a bunch of different committees," he said. "I really enjoy the downtown task force. I've tried to be active and stay on top of the affordable housing issue. I've gone to as many meetings as I can."

Parsons, 48, was appointed to the City Council in May 2005 after serving on the city's Planning & Zoning Commission for two years. He filled a vacant seat left by Potters, who resigned for health-related reasons.

If elected to a four-year term, tackling growth issues would be a priority for Parsons, he said.

"Not all growth has to be painful," he said. "You can have quality growth like the Simplot property. That's a good example of quality growth for the city. This is a far superior land use than to lot and block it and sell it off."

The Simplot project—put forth by property owners Scott and Gay Simplot—is slated to deliver 10,000 square feet of community housing, two public parks, improvements to a public bike path crossing the site and public access to a 136-space underground parking garage.

Enhanced sidewalks, parks and bike paths help mitigate impacts of growth and associated traffic, Parsons said.

"I think what we need to do in the planning process, and we're getting better at it, is have wider sidewalks and encourage bike and pedestrian traffic," he said. "I'm a park proponent. We can't lose sight of the fact that we have these great parks and we need to budget for (their upkeep)."

Among larger issues that will likely be considered by the City Council is the potential annexation of scores of acres of land at the River Run base area of Bald Mountain owned by Sun Valley Co.

"I don't think there's any doubt within the next couple of years we'll see that," he said. "I would hope we could sit down with (Sun Valley General Manager) Wally Huffman and Sun Valley Co. and see what it will entail. (We could see their) concept of what River Run will look like—the scale, boundaries, the phasing—so before they apply a lot of the pieces are in place so there aren't a whole lot of surprises."

Parsons is taking a wait-and-see approach with Sun Valley Ventures' Warm Springs Ranch redevelopment project that came to a halt, at least temporarily, earlier this month when the hotel partner pulled out following a City Council meeting to review the plan.

"I'd be more than happy to dive into that when we know a little more what they're doing," he said.

Parsons was on the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission when commissioners recommended approval of the Warm Springs Ranch project.

"The thing people need to remember is the P&Z is a recommending body and that it doesn't set or make policy," he said. "There are a lot of things about the project that were really beneficial to the public. There were portions of the plan that troubled the P&Z but the developer really wanted those to be addressed at the council level. It's a worthy project to be heard by the council."

Parsons said he supports the notion of a new civic complex, which could be located on a city-owned parking lot adjacent to Giacobbi Square, as well as a new City Hall "campus" on East Avenue.

"We need one," he said. "City Hall is falling apart. We need to sit down and get a conceptual plan. Whether the citizens want to fund it, it's up to them. I imagine some pretty big town hall meetings to discuss it."

Parsons served with the Ketchum Fire Department for 25 years, and was captain for 18 years. He retired from the department in 2001 but worked as a volunteer until his appointment to the City Council.

He has been a member of the Sun Valley Ski Patrol since 1979 and is self-employed as a property manager.

"I'm ready to be involved as much as I can and I'm committed to the next four years to spending the time necessary ... to get things done," he said.

Parson's seat is one of two council positions on the Nov. 1 municipal election ballot. The other seat is currently held by Baird Gourlay, who 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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