Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Zoning code talk turns to hotels

Developers weigh in on Ketchum?s proposed changes

Express Staff Writer

A recurring Ketchum conundrum was brought to the fore again this week as the city looks over its zoning ordinance.

The debate over enlivening the downtown while keeping a small-town atmosphere continued at the Ketchum Planning & Zoning meeting Monday, June 12.

At issue is the proposed form-based code system, which would change zoning and development regulations by implementing a specific vision for an area rather than focusing on use.

Hotels have long been sought by some developers as an important way to bring more visitors, and their dollars, to the city. But the city's limits on building heights and the way it defines hotels have prevented some developers from designing what they say would be successful models.

Steve Burnstead, a principal of Bald Mountain LLC, which owns a sizable property at 151 S. Main Street, said if the city wants hotels, zoning changes must be enacted.

"We've been studying for a year and a half the viability of putting a project such as a hotel on that site," he said. "Our main competition is obviously Sun Valley Co. They have the ability to have a 60-foot-tall building, ample employee housing, they control recreational amenities, they have all the current convention spaces. It's a very daunting task to look at how to promote hotels downtown in the city of Ketchum."

"A hotel is one of the key components, or is the key, to energize the city," he added. "There's no economic viability in a three-story environment. The code needs to be written with a fourth floor in it. Condos, fractionals, timeshares. That's really what makes it fly. What the city gets out of it is the high-quality hotel rooms and the energy associated with that. "

Brian Barsotti, a Ketchum developer and attorney who spent four years planning to build a luxury hotel and conference center at the site before selling it last year, also spoke in favor of increased height.

"If you want hotels in the downtown core, you need to take a look at that," he said.

In addition, he said, the definition of hotel needs to be changed to allow for other uses, which is typical in upscale hotels around the country.

Attorney Keith Roark spoke on behalf of the Leadville Homeowners Association, arguing that dramatically increasing height maximums, and the construction that could follow, would create "significant" problems for current residents.

The P&Z will discuss the issue again on June 26.

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