Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Can TDRs save Ketchum?s history?

P&Z debates fine points of plan

Express Staff Writer

Fairness and functionality are a good start to a transfer of development rights system.

But predictability and specificity in the code are some of the finer points up for debate.

The Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission debated a proposed TDR system—which allows owners of existing smaller buildings to sell development rights to other buildings—and an accompanying map during a special meeting Aug. 8.

"(Without TDRs) all properties will be developed at some time because the economic pressure is too great," said Planning Director Harold Moniz. "TDRs are designed as a long-range vision of how we want our community to develop."

That vision includes maintaining the existing inventory of small-scale, cottage and heritage type structures while at the same time increasing density in other, more appropriate areas in order to accommodate growth.

Under the proposed ordinance, certain areas of town would be designated "sending areas" and be able to sell unused development rights. Property owners in "receiving areas" could then buy those rights to create greater density in other parts of town.

The system is voluntary, but some local citizens expressed concern that property owners in designated "sending" areas might want to be in "receiving" areas, and vice versa.

P&Z commissioners considered establishing an appeals process or a conditional-use provision in the ordinance.

Commissioners agreed with some meeting attendees that more specific reasons for why a building should be put in one area or another would help mitigate complaints about fairness.

"I'd like to see the reasoning fleshed out in a document," said Commissioner Greg Strong. "It would enable somebody to use that criteria to come before P&Z and state their case on how their piece of property stacks up against that criteria."

Realtor Dick Fenton, who is part owner of a heritage building, said he wanted more economic specifics before considering whether enough incentives exist for him to sell TDRs.

"Somehow, we've got to go through the economics of, 'What will it take for me to save my building?'" he said. "We do need to get pricing worked into the procedure."

Broker Ginny Warjone said the city of Aspen had no success with their TDR program.

The proposed system in Ketchum, Moniz replied, already has interested participants.

"We're certainly aware there are more TDR programs that have failed than have been successful," he said. "We've been in contact with property owners that are ready-and-willing sellers."

A TDR ordinance exists on the books, but it has never been used.

"The premise is not economical, or the market isn't developed enough for anyone to take advantage of it," Moniz said. With the new system, the marketplace would set TDR values.

"It's a pure market transaction."

The P&Z is also considering Ketchum Historic Preservation Commissioner Andy Sabel's idea to add extra incentives specifically for historic structures to encourage their preservation.

Owners of such buildings could be allowed to export the entire amount of the potential use of the property, regardless of the amount of floor area currently existing in the historic structure.

The TDR system as a concept was recommended by the Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission last month.

City staff will organize commissioners' comments and review them with the body later this month. Recommendations will then be sent to the City Council for its consideration.

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