Friday, May 12, 2006

Neighbors fight housing plan

Proposal gets thumbs up from Housing Authority


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

A plan for a multi-family housing development in southeastern Ketchum has garnered support from the Wood River Land Trust and the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

The same project is drawing fire, however, from some neighbors who say the project, if approved, amounts to a sweetheart deal for the developer.

Jack Bariteau, representing his interests in a company called the Stevenson Ketchum Fund, presented a plan Monday, May 8, to the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission for a 10-unit residential project adjacent to Trail Creek, on the corner of Second Street and Walnut Avenue.

The plan calls for two multi-unit residential buildings—one building with seven units and one with three units.

The applicant is proposing one community housing unit and street improvements to Walnut Avenue as well as a small city park at the end of the Walnut Avenue right of way.

A pedestrian connection from the park to Wood River Land Trust property adjacent to Trail Creek on the east side of the project site would also be provided.

"Access to the river is increasingly being blocked," said Kate Giese, the land trust's stewardship coordinator. "A public greenway along creeks and the river ... it's a long-term vision, and this would be the beginning."

Representatives from the Ketchum Parks & Recreation Department also spoke in favor of the plan.

"The idea of a public park is very appealing to us," said Kirk Mason, parks director. The city is lacking more than a dozen acres of park space, a study has indicated, and because land is so expensive, acquiring that will be difficult.

Jen Smith, parks superintendent and city arborist, said she liked the tree plan developers are offering, including the preservation of older trees. But she hoped the park's development would keep in mind all potential users.

"As an advocate for people with disabilities, I want to make sure there is access to the park for people in wheelchairs," she said.

Ketchum attorney Barry Luboviski, retained by adjoining property owners, said the plan isn't fair.

"This is a very good deal for the developers," he said.

According to his estimate of the exchange, the city would lose 6,000 square feet of property in return for $600,000 worth of goods.

"Developers are buying property for two-thirds of its value," he said.

Several community members spoke in favor of the plan.

"A lot of these elements benefit the whole community," said Joel Mallett. "You can't put a dollar value onto public access."

Drew Sanderford, associate director of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority, said the one, larger deed-restricted unit fulfilled affordable housing needs for families.

The project includes three applications. One requests vacation of public right of way on undeveloped portions of First Street between the alley to the east of the property and the undeveloped portion of Walnut Avenue.

Another seeks waterways design review to relocate a sewer line into the riparian zone.

The third is for a development agreement rezone—which means they want to change the zoning of the lot from General Residential-Low Density to General Residential-High Density. In exchange, they agree to certain conditions from the city.

Commissioners requested a site visit before making a recommendation to the City Council.




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