Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ketchum unveils downtown master plan

Specific codes and regulations still being developed


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Terry Tracy

The words "strategic community action" could blossom into lovelier streetscapes, pedestrian corridors and a more bustling downtown.

The Ketchum City Council Monday, July 17, approved changes it made last week—in individual, closed sessions—to the draft of the city's downtown master plan.

The plan is a system of city-guided initiatives to strategically rebalance the community's physical place, housing and economy, according to the draft's language.

The city has contracted since October with economic development consultant Tom Hudson, of Moscow-based The Hudson Company, to create the framework and implementation of a downtown master plan.

The city is working to finalize the plan while under a one-year interim ordinance that prohibits all-residential construction in the Commercial Core and Tourist zones.

Aspects of the downtown master plan dealing with building regulations and zoning ordinances were taken out of the draft in order to give the city and local residents more time to discuss details.

Issues such as transfer of development rights, parking, form-based codes and inclusionary zoning were mentioned and supported in theory, but not in detail.

"The code issues were dropped," said Councilman Baird Gourlay. "The visionary part of the (plan) is really what we put forward. (Code issues) are what we'll spend more time on with developers and the community at large."

Councilwoman Terry Tracy questioned what, of substance, was accomplished by taking those issues out.

"What are we passing? A lot of fluff?" she asked, adding that Ketchum citizens would also have such questions.

Councilman Steven Shafran defended the exclusion of code and other issues that directly impact the development community.

Streetscape design and the formation of an urban renewal agency and community development corporation need to be supported now, he said.

"It needs to get into the (capital improvement program) and into the construction schedule next year," he said. "There's a lot of stuff that concerns the public well-being that doesn't touch on new construction."

An urban renewal agency is a governmental body that revitalizes cities by targeting specific projects and encouraging private investment. The Ketchum City Council is the Ketchum URA's acting board.

Nonprofit CDCs can oversee management for a number of other entities or they can partner with quasi-governmental agencies such as a housing authority to work on specific issues like affordable housing. The Ketchum CDC is in formation.

The master plan offers ways to realize objectives outlined in the framework, which the City Council adopted in February. The master plan addresses physical design, organization and economic development in the city's core.

The document is organized into topical sections. Downtown design sections address circulation, form-based codes, orientation and "wayfinding," streetscapes, public spaces and parking. It also offers information on economic development, affordable housing and potential resources to attain those goals, such as URAs and CDCs.

A priority Hudson's team recommended the city address by the first quarter of next year is to hire a design firm to create a town plaza. Money could be provided by the Ketchum URA, with help from a CDC and city staff. Hudson's suggested timeline calls for construction to start in the spring of 2008.

Another top issue, according to the draft, is redesigning Fourth Street to create a pedestrian-priority heritage corridor. Cultural and historical spaces will highlight the city's character, both past and present, which will enhance pedestrians' experience. Hudson's recommended timeline calls for design to start this fall, with construction to begin in spring.

Other recommended actions include holding a public workshop on the city's parking system, organizing design committees to enhance proposed downtown districts, initiating affordable housing projects on city-owned public land, improving the city's southern gateway, finding ways to enhance alleys, emphasizing arts and clarifying street signs.

The Planning & Zoning Commission will hold numerous special meetings in August to begin crafting new design and building regulations.

A parking workshop could be held in October.

The master plan draft will be available for viewing at www.sunvalleycentral.com.




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