Friday, June 9, 2006

City planning affordable housing

Ketchum could have dozens of new units in two years

Express Staff Writer

The steady stream of cars headed north on state Highway 75 every morning, even during slack, is indicative of the number of people who have jobs in the north valley but can't afford to live there.

While Ketchum residents await the unveiling next month of a proposed downtown master plan, the city's Urban Renewal Agency is discussing ways to welcome home those who have fled.

Approximately 450 people are on a waiting list for affordable rental or owner-occupied units, according to the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority.

"The issue for Ketchum has to do with community vitality," said Mayor Randy Hall. "When you have people working in the community and living in the community, it creates synergy."

The master plan, being formulated under the direction of economic consultant Tom Hudson, the URA and the city's capital improvement program are pieces of the puzzle that could inject new life into a waning downtown scene.

Affordable, deed-restricted housing ideally would keep people living, working and spending in town, bolstering businesses and keeping the city alive year around.

The master plan has to be accepted by the city and adopted by the City Council. While the details of that are worked out, the city could see one or two affordable-housing projects brought forward by the end of summer, said Ron LeBlanc, Ketchum city administrator and the URA's executive director.

A URA is a governmental body that tries to revitalize cities by targeting specific projects and encouraging private investment. The Ketchum URA is governed by the City Council.

Affordable housing and parking structures are its main areas of focus.

With both public and private initiatives, deed-restricted housing in Ketchum could multiply quickly, Hudson said.

The goal of the downtown master plan is to have 800 affordable housing owner units, with half being supplied by private development.

Results from an informal survey of a town hall meeting last month show people want both sectors involved in creating workforce housing.

Private landowners could be required to build affordable units through an "inclusive zoning" ordinance.

"We have to have some public discussion, but that's certainly one method," Hall said.

If the city required 30 percent of second- and third-floor leasable square feet to be deed-restricted, and a couple of projects are developed each year, the city could see 400 units in 10 years, Hudson said.

Some of those could be earmarked for middle-income or other categories of applicants.

The city already owns several parcels of land that could be tapped for a mix of housing, parking and micro-retail space.

"The City Council could sell land to the URA for one dollar, let's say," LeBlanc said. "The URA would develop a plan for a parking structure with housing above it. The planning commission would look at setbacks, parking requirements and determine if it conforms to zoning requirements."

City-owned land at Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue currently accommodates a parking lot.

"That would be a very good first project," LeBlanc said.

The property comprises two city lots, each one approximately 55 by 100 feet. The lots could perhaps hold two dozen units.

Another city-owned lot at Second Street and Washington Avenue, behind Sushi on Second, measures the same.

Another potential site is the north end of the Park & Ride lot at the corner of Warm Springs and Saddle roads.

The 3-acre site could accommodate twice the other lots' units.

"We'd use the same guidelines that the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority has," LeBlanc said. "After the units are completed, we'd look to them to qualify the buyers and help manage."

The housing authority said it's ready to step into the position.

"That's what we're designed to do," said BKHA Associate Director Drew Sanderford.

The URA projects wouldn't necessarily be 100 percent deed-restricted, LeBlanc said.

"We have to be able to put together a finance plan," he said. "The goal is to maximize the number of community housing units."

Costs could be balanced out, and a parking garage paid for, by mixing deed-restricted units with market-rate units.

A financial plan, economic analysis and fiscal impact statement are required by urban renewal agency law, LeBlanc said.

"The housing is needed," he said. "It's fortunate the city already owns the land. It makes it quicker and makes it pencil out better."


Downtown Proposals

· Public meetings on parking, new codes and the downtown master plan are scheduled for June 20 and 21.

· To view a Power Point presentation on the Ketchum Master Plan, visit Express Publishing's Web site at and click on linnk to the "Downtown Ketchum Proposal."

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