Friday, July 14, 2006

Preservation panel debates TDR concept

Express Staff Writer

Block by block, building by building, Ketchum city staff and economic development consultant Tom Hudson picked out structures they believe should be preserved and areas that might benefit from less density.

Then, they identified places where density could be increased without greatly affecting view corridors or smaller-scale "heritage" areas.

A color-coded map shows their preliminary ideas of sending and receiving areas in a transfer of development rights system.

Members of the Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission Wednesday weighed potential benefits and drawbacks of TDRs, as well as what blocks should be included in either category—or neither. The system is being considered as part of the city's downtown master plan process as a way to preserve heritage while accommodating growth.

"It's about heritage," Hudson told the commission. "Citizens have been telling us that a very important part of their community is degrading."

"Heritage is about community values," he added. "What we're trying to do with the downtown master plan is accommodate certain types of priorities for the future, and other kinds of things that make us grow in a way that's respectful of heritage. A tool to do that is TDRs."

In the TDR system, certain areas of town are designated "sending areas" and have development rights to sell. Property owners in "receiving areas" can buy those rights to create greater density in other, more appropriate parts of town.

Development rights are the difference between the existing use of a piece of land and its future building potential. Although the system is voluntary, TDRs are permanent and the "sending" property that sold its rights is forever marked as deed-restricted.

"This is a great concept for our community," said Commission Chairman Jim Ruscitto.

Main Street is identified as a potential sending area, so buildings there would be able to sell off development rights—if they haven't already built to maximum height.

That notion prompted Commissioner Andy Sabel to question whether it was wise to include new buildings such as banks to be grouped with other, heritage-type structures.

"We've got to start thinking 50 years out," Hudson said. "We are seeing every year relatively recent buildings being knocked down. Let's create an opportunity to build smaller buildings (as replacements)."

If and when buildings are torn down on Main Street, the incentive through TDRs would exist for property owners to keep smaller-scale development on that popular corridor.

Hudson's team left out of the sending and receiving areas the neighborhood around Hemingway Elementary School, between Sixth and Eighth streets.

"You have less than half the Idaho average population of children," Hudson explained. "Stop and contemplate: what are the implications of that? When you put a one-story cap on a building, it becomes a rarity. It has more cost ... and severely limits the number of people who can live there. You make it harder for the average family to live there."

Some commissioners were inclined, however, to include that area as a sending area in order to preserve its unique character.

Commissioners will review the proposed map before reconvening in a special meeting next week to discuss their thoughts.

They will then make a recommendation to the City Council on the map and whether they think a TDR system is an appropriate way to preserve Ketchum's heritage.


For more information

Slide shows from Tom Hudson's presentations on the downtown master plan are available at

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