Friday, March 24, 2006

Ketchum extends hold on developments

Provisions of downtown moratorium extended for one year

Express Staff Writer

Hold your condo applications.

The Ketchum City Council passed an interim ordinance Monday, March 20, that effectively extends by one year provisions enacted with the city's 2005 emergency moratorium on certain residential projects downtown.

"The focus was on keeping residential (units) off the first floor of key downtown streets," Mayor Randy Hall said Wednesday. "(First-floor residential) is not in anyone's best interest, so we took action."

The 182-day moratorium approved last October pertained to new applications for single-family homes or projects that include first-floor residential units in the Community Core zoning district.

Language in the emergency ordinance states that development containing residential uses on the ground floor threatens the economic vitality of the city, threatens to permanently impair the city's collection of local option taxes and threatens the city's ability to adequately staff and pay for essential services.

The city now has one year to review zoning and other regulations in the city's core.

"The intent (of the interim ordinance) is to continue the concepts and principles of the original moratorium," Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz said Wednesday. "It continues that prohibition on ground-floor residential purely to the point that we finish the downtown master plan."

The city contracted with economic development consultant Tom Hudson to help formulate the master plan. Design guidelines, zoning changes, streetscape plans and enhanced transfer of development rights could all be part of the outcome.

Hudson is currently working with city staff to incorporate ideas generated by the public at this month's "Designfest" workshop and finalize a master plan draft.

"We've taken the concepts and ideas at the Designfest and are trying to refine them and lend our professional expertise on how viable they are," Moniz said.

The core could be divided into four districts rather than two commercial zones as once considered.

"Each district will have certain elements that the city is going to encourage (through ordinances)," Moniz said. That will promote "patterns of development conducive to each district's identity through form-based zoning codes."

A new series of ordinances governing downtown development would have to go through three readings at the City Council level, unless they decide to waive that requirement.

"I would not advise them to do that and would not support that," Moniz said.

The ordinances could go into effect by July. The interim ordinance, then, could be repealed before its expiration in March 2007.

"That's the intent," Moniz said.

While in effect, the interim ordinance will cover all new activity in the downtown core, including whatever is planned for the Sun Valley Athletic Club site on First Avenue, bought this month by LBJ Partners.

The Ketchum Planning Department has met once with representatives from the company.

"We had one meeting to explore different development concepts for that site," Moniz said, adding that no application to redevelop the parcel had been submitted.

A phone call to LBJ Partners seeking comment was not immediately returned Thursday.

"Up to the point the interim ordinance is repealed or expired (any applicant) would have to conform," Moniz said. "A request for residential on the ground floor (for that) would not be processed by this department."

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