Friday, September 23, 2005

Council mulls Thunder Spring request

Developer wants to amend PUD agreement

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum City Council is not ready to let Thunder Spring out of a development agreement it made with the city nearly eight years ago.

Council members at their meeting Monday, Sept. 19, expressed reservations about a request to amend the planned-unit development agreement for the project at 124 Saddle Road.

Applicant Thunder Spring-Wareham LLC wants the city to amend the Thunder Spring PUD conditional-use permit in a number of ways, including extending the time for developing remaining residential units and eliminating the 5,000 square feet of non-profit office space and a 1,000-square-foot day-care facility.

"We're asking (the city) to change the agreement based on current information," said Ketchum attorney Ed Lawson, representing the applicant.

In a June meeting with the Planning & Zoning Commission, project representatives said they initially envisioned their multi-use project as a hub of commercial, retail, residential, restaurants and non-profit activity. The demand for such a project, however, did not materialize, they said.

The P&Z recommended allowing the changes.

Project representatives agreed to allow public use of the golf course for Nordic tracks in the winter and to give $5,000 toward building a tot lot elsewhere in the city.

Councilman Baird Gourlay wasn't satisfied with the offer.

"We have a demand for other things," he said, citing commercial space and affordable housing. "We negotiated this deal a long time ago. The cost of building five thousand square feet and letting it disappear is unacceptable."

Councilman Ron Parsons spent several minutes venting his frustration.

"We spend a lot of time thinking about planned-unit developments," he said. "You assume it's going to come to fruition. It's frustrating."

He said Thursday that he was inclined to uphold previous officials' decisions.

"It was negotiated in good faith," he said. "But years later a sitting council and mayor have to renegotiate something that was negotiated years ago."

Lawson defended his clients' position.

"At the time it was approved it was understood as a pioneering project and some changes would be made," he said.

The issue will be back on the table Oct. 3.

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