Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ketchum council OKs Simplot project

Development would change west side of city center

Express Staff Writer

For a brief but savory moment, the Ketchum City Council enjoyed cheers and handshakes from those who filled City Hall.

Council members Monday, Nov. 21, unanimously approved the resolution and ordinances that take the Simplot project, including a plan for a new Sun Valley Center for the Arts headquarters, one step closer to fruition.

"I'm glad we got it put to bed," Dick Fenton, a representative for the property owners, the Simplot family, said Tuesday. "Relieved is probably the word."

Sam Gappmayer, SVCA executive director, said the Ketchum-based arts organization was grateful to be at this point in the process.

"We're happy about the outcome," he said Tuesday. "The Simplots are offering to us to be a portion of the overall plan. The next step is to sit down with the Simplots and work out the details."

The Simplots will subdivide and develop under a detailed master plan the 3.8-acre parcel that encompasses two city blocks immediately northwest of the Ketchum Post Office, along Second Avenue.

Lot 1, on the southeast part of the property, is planned to be the site of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts. Lots 2 and 3, to the north, will be mixed-use parcels, and Lot 4, to the west, will be all residential.

Supporters of the overall project say benefits to the city are public parks, improvements to a public bike path crossing the site and public access to a 136-space underground parking garage.

On Monday's agenda were two ordinances: vacation of 33,000 square feet of public rights of way, including an undeveloped portion of Fifth Street and an alley that would bisect the property; and a rezone of one portion of the property entirely to Tourist zoning designation and another portion to General Residential-High Density.

The council also passed a resolution allowing the mayor to execute a development agreement between the city and the property owners.

The process threatened to be delayed another several months due to changes discussed during an executive session midway through Monday's meeting.

If major amendments are made to the development agreement, it would have had to go through another three readings with the council at subsequent meetings.

"There was some question on a title issue," said Mayor Ed Simon. "The parties have gotten together and resolved all issues."

Instead of taking the title issues to court, Simon said after the meeting, the applicant agreed to increase the community-housing requirement from 10,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet.

That could represent up to 20 affordable housing units, Fenton said.

The owners will also get to build two additional market-rate units.

City Council President Randy Hall said the changes did not constitute major amendments, and the council opted to vote on the matter.

All buildings in the project still must go through design review at the Planning & Zoning level.

Fenton said the Simplots will likely sit down early next year to decide how to proceed with the development.

"They'll make some decisions whether they want to sell the other lots, develop them themselves or through a joint venture," Fenton said.

Gappmayer said the SVCA hopes to have sketches drawn up in the next six months.

Most attendees at Monday's meeting were there to support the arts center's plan.

"It allows us to put our feet somewhere for 20, 30 years," said Will Northrop, SVCA board president. "We've had to move every 10 years, (resulting in) the inability to grow further. The center has an opportunity to ground itself and meet current space needs and those of the future."

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