Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Warm Springs Restaurant's days numbered

Golf to continue through next summer

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley Ventures owner Steve Roth, left, stands with Warm Springs Restaurant managers Pam Ebertz and Bob Dunn outside the restaurant in northwest Ketchum. Roth announced Monday he will close the restaurant as of March 31, 2006, but he is planning to rebuild another restaurant somewhere on the site. Ebertz and Dunn have worked for Warm Springs Restaurant for a combined 48 years. Photo by Willy Cook

Just over 100 opportunities remain for dinner at the original Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant in Ketchum.

Bob Dunn, restaurant manager, and Steve Roth, owner of Warm Springs Ranch, announced the date of March 31, 2006, as the restaurant's last night of service.

Although a new restaurant is planned to take its place, there will be no dining establishment on site for a 12- to 18- month interim.

The three dozen restaurant employees have been offered a bonus if they stay on until the end.

"As far as I know, everybody's on board," Dunn said. But, "it was a very emotional meeting. A lot of the people have worked there 20 years or more."

Roth said he's worked to keep open the establishment, a popular drinking and dining destination for 52 years.

Roth is the owner of Sun Valley Ventures, the company that in 2003 bought the 77-acre Warm Springs Ranch property, located off Warm Springs Road.

"I have a real passion for the restaurant," Roth said. "I've been coming here for 42 years, since I was 8 years old."

But the edifice is not salvageable, according to an assessment by Jim Ruscitto, project architect.

A new restaurant would allow managers to bring back summer lunches on the deck, which could be used more days of the year and for more functions, according to Roth.

"We're definitely going to create a warm and cozy feeling in the restaurant," he said.

"And that's the challenge we face," Dunn added.

Roth and his team have not pinpointed a location for the new restaurant because of the city's request to reconfigure Bald Mountain Road through the property. They also plan to move the entrance to line up with Flower Drive.

"How Bald Mountain Road is eventually designed to come through the property will definitely have an effect on where the restaurant is re-sited," Roth said.

"Due to the height differential between Warm Springs Road and the lowest part of the property, it is a major engineering challenge," he added. "Both of these projects are going to require extensive earth moving and involve large equipment."

That construction, he said, makes it dangerous to have the public walking around the site and necessitates the restaurant's closure.

Roth said he hopes to gain necessary approvals from the city and be able to break ground by late summer or early fall, 2006.

Plans also call for keeping open the Warm Springs Golf Course next summer, as well as the construction of new tennis courts. The site's old tennis courts were recently demolished.

"We intend to relocate the tennis facility on the south side of the creek, and we are working closely with the (Bureau of Land Management) for the purchase of the approximately one-acre triangle that sits between our two lots in the county," Roth said.

Construction of seven tennis courts and parking is planned to begin in May.

Roth, Dunn, Ruscitto and project manager Henry Dean appeared before the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission Monday, Dec. 12, for a public hearing on Sun Valley Ventures' application to subdivide the portion of the property in the city limits.

The eight-lot subdivision, including five non-building parcels, has different zoning and restrictions.

The possible density for the subdivision under current zoning is 149 units, according to a city staff report.

The largest lot, 2.5 acres in the Tourist zone, could accommodate up to 55 residential units under the existing zoning, the report says.

"We're not planning 10 mega homes," Dean said. "That's not the direction this is going."

He would not elaborate on specific plans for the property, however. Nor would he discuss options for the remainder of Sun Valley Ventures' property in unincorporated Blaine County.

"It'll all become very apparent," Dean said. "I'm going to ask you to trust me. I've had a number of masters, sometimes with conflicting thoughts. Steve Roth now owns the property (in full). I think you're going to see this work out quite well."

The public hearing was continued to the Jan. 9 P&Z meeting.

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