Friday, March 3, 2006

Sun Valley hires planning consultants

Gateway Meadow events up for review

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council decided Thursday to contract with Colorado-based consultants Winston Associates to assist with a series of key land-use planning projects.

The contract is a three-part arrangement to the tune of $160,000 and includes review of a "Gateway" planning effort now in the works with the city of Ketchum. That effort is intended to elicit the public's vision for the future character of the northern Wood River Valley.

Council members decided to fund the Gateway review and planning concerning "mass and scale" in the city, but they put on hold support for planning McHanville, the light-industrial and residential area neighboring St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

Nonetheless, the council left the door open for funding of McHanville planning in hopes that Ketchum, St. Luke's, Blaine County and other entities will contribute. Sun Valley has been spearheading an effort to plan the future of McHanville, which is located in Blaine County.

The council hoped to settle on the McHanville issue at its March 16 meeting.

Preceding the decision about funding planning consultants, a discussion was held about what should happen with the city's five-acre Festival Meadow on Sun Valley Road, at the western entrance to the city.

As fine arts and performing arts groups begin to plan summer events at the public park, the council discussed how to best balance increasing interest in use of the property with neighbors' concerns and the city's crowd-management responsibilities.

City Administrator Virginia Egger asked the council to address the issue in light of the fact that considerable staff time is required to manage the space, especially during events that require parking, security and lavatories.

Mayor Jon Thorson was reluctant to propose new policies for managing the property while the Gateway planning process is in the works.

"We were going to have a policy this year until we decided to (pursue) the Gateway study," Thorson said. He noted that in his view allowing special community-oriented events, in addition to being good for the vitality of the community, could be viewed as an opportunity to gather information about how the land should be used in the future.

Several members of the arts community spoke favorably of their experiences using the property. Last year the Ketchum Arts Festival attracted an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people.

Pru Hemmings, of the nexStage Theater, said the Sun Valley Center for the Arts' Renaissance Fair that was held on the property last summer was a hit with the public. Hemmings said some guidance about the city's intentions for the property would be helpful, as planners are interested in coordinating the fair with the Sun Valley Shakespeare Festival, which, in its seventh year, is outgrowing the Forest Service Park in Ketchum.

At City Councilman Nils Ribi's request, the council decided to hold any decisions on matters of the park until the March 16 meeting to give the public ample notice and a chance to weigh in on the schedule of events for the site.

The council also tabled a discussion about entering into a contract for services with the Blaine Ketchum Housing Authority until March 16, when a new governing board is expected to be in place for the community housing organization. The organization's entire board resigned earlier this week.

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