Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Quail Creek developers propose changes

Community housing project stalled by legal challenge

Express Staff Writer

Developers of the largest community-housing-specific development approved in Blaine County history want to alter key components of the plan, which is being held up by an appeal.

Quail Creek, located two miles south of Ketchum, was slated to include 87 free-market units and 39 community housing units.

In a meeting with the Blaine County Commission last Thursday, George Kirk, of Ketchum-based The Kirk Group, proposed to increase the total number of community housing units to 46 but reduce the total number of bedrooms in those units by almost half, from 124 to 68.

"They're unable to finance the current project so they wanted to see what sort of flexibility might be available," Commissioner Sarah Michael said.

Deane Johnson, who owns land adjacent to the proposed Quail Creek site, appealed the commissioner's approval last spring. A court date has yet to be set.

Bob Kantor, Kirk's partner, said the litigation combined with increasing construction costs and a diminished housing market led to the proposed changes.

"The changes accommodate a more real look at the housing picture today," Kantor said.

Kantor said construction costs have increased 30 percent over the past couple years—due to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War—and the building delay has not helped.

"Certainly the litigation had a significant impact," Kantor said.

The new proposal eliminates 20 community housing units from categories 3 and 4—people earning between 60 percent and 100 percent of the county's median household income.

In exchange, all of the community housing units in the development would be lumped into category 2, which includes people earning 40 to 60 percent of the county's median household income, for a grand total of 46 community housing units.

Michael said attorney Fritz Haemmerle, who's representing Johnson, believed that The Kirk Group's proposal was inappropriate since the litigation is still pending.

"He thinks it should go back through the Planning and Zoning process," Michael said.

Michael added that County Attorney Tim Graves, who is on vacation, would need to look over the proposal before any decisions are made.

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