Friday, March 31, 2006

Heads up: Big ideas, big actions are on deck

Don't blink. If you do, you may miss a whole lot of changes afoot that could affect the lives of local businesses and families.

Just look at what's on deck for public consideration next week.

The Ketchum City Council will hold a public hearing on creation of an Urban Renewal Agency for the city's downtown on Monday, April 3, at 7 p.m.

The idea blazed out of workshops held in early March. Should the URA be approved, Ketchum is slated to appoint City Council members as the URA governing board, hold a meeting that very night and consider boundaries for an Urban Renewal District.

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on sweeping reductions in development densities that could stop suburban sprawl and concentrate growth in the cities. The hearing is set for Thursday, April 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Campus Auditorium in Hailey. The proposed ordinances were released this week and already have caused a stir.

The Blaine County Board of Commissioners will consider putting wheels in motion to change to a Commission-Manager form of government. A public hearing on whether to embark on this quest is set for April 4 at 9:30 a.m. in the Old County Courthouse.

Before going to voters, the county commissioners would decide which of various alternative Commission-Manager structures to put on a ballot. Voters would decide whether to allow the county to expand the number of elected commissioners and to hire a professional manager.

With all of these big ideas before them, citizens may feel a little woozy.

The primary reason Ketchum may want an Urban Renewal Agency is that the agency may be able to receive federal grants that are not available to cities. The city is looking for money to stave off more business closings, fix crumbling sidewalks, and return year-round residents to empty neighborhoods.

Blaine County is looking to respond to citizens who said the county should concentrate growth in cities and protect agriculture and the rural environment.

Preventing sprawl would save the county from being forced to spend more to provide services than new residences would pay in taxes.

A change in county government could relieve commissioners of time-consuming minutiae. Do residents really need the county commissioners to decide what kind of paper to buy for county offices, or would their time be better spent setting policy?

Residents should not delay to weigh in these ideas or they could find themselves left in the dust. They should pick through the ideas and offer elected officials the benefit of their thoughtful consideration of each matter.

The week after next could be too late.

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