Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Council sets priorities, near and far

Two-day Mackay retreat helps Ketchum leaders focus

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum City Councilman Steven Shafran, left, looks over a Power Point presentation with economic development consultant Tom Hudson. The City Council, Mayor Randy Hall, Hudson and three department heads attended a two-day retreat, Aug. 15 and 16, at Wild Horse Creek Ranch near Mackay to set short- and long-term priorities. Express photos by Rebecca Meany

A mountain of projects was whittled down into more manageable hills during the Ketchum City Council's retreat last week.

The purpose of the two-day work session, held Aug. 15 and 16 at Wild Horse Creek Ranch over Trail Creek Summit near Mackay, was to identify what needs to be done, and when.

"The idea is for us to come out with not just a prioritized list but a timed prioritized list," said economic development consultant Tom Hudson, who facilitated the workshop. "We're gonna have a really good work plan coming out of this."

The council and Hudson, plus Mayor Randy Hall, Planning Director Harold Moniz, City Administrator Ron LeBlanc and City Attorney Ben Worst, brainstormed a list of nearly 100 topics. The mayor and council then combed through them one at a time, ranking them on a scale from one to five. The list was viewed and reviewed, then reorganized and prioritized again.

"The objective is to say, 'What is going to rise to the top in the next six to 12 months?'" said Councilman Steven Shafran. "I think there's a real difference between capital priorities and organizational priorities. There's a lot of housekeeping matters, and I think we have to respect that we need to keep the house clean while we work on the expansion."

Councilwoman Terry Tracy agreed that while the city is working on a downtown master plan, it shouldn't neglect the small stuff.

"I think we're so focused on the big picture, the little guy is losing out," she said.

Some projects were moved to the front of the line because of Proposition 2, an initiative that could require cities to compensate landowners if zoning is changed. Voters will decide its future in November, but cities are now preparing for either outcome by completing projects before it would go into effect.

Projects Ketchum officials determined should be completed over the next three months include:

· Approve a downtown master plan.

· Approve a form-based code zoning regulations.

· Approve an inclusionary zoning ordinance.

· Release Tourist and General-Residential-High Density zones from building moratorium.

· Start up the urban renewal agency.

The City Council is for now serving as the urban renewal agency board of directors.

"They have to adopt a plan, and we have a draft we're working on," LeBlanc said. They also have to adopt a revenue allocation area and notify various taxing agencies about the body's establishment. The Planning & Zoning Commission also has to issue a recommendation on the plan's projects to the urban renewal agency board.

Projects are likely to include a town plaza, affordable housing and streetscape improvements.

Projects to be completed over the next four to six months include:

· Create an affordable housing demonstration project.

· Implement a downtown parking system through the form-based code.

· Develop a holistic policy on ordinance enforcement.

· Craft a construction mitigation ordinance.

· Issue business licenses.

· Create signs to help people find their way around town.

· Start a streetscape project.

· Draft a tree ordinance and find ways to incentivize tree preservation.

· Enact a noise ordinance.

· Improve safety on the south side of the bike path on Warm Springs.

· Work on downtown circulation.

· Study roundabouts for safety and circulation in select downtown spots.

· Craft a master plan for Warm Springs Village.

· Deal with noxious weeds.

"You've got some of the most noxious weeds in the state," Hudson said. "The law requires you to manage them."

Further goals include:

· Begin using Sketch-Up, which is 3-D design software used to create architectural and landscape models so citizens and city officials can better visualize projects in their preliminary stages.

· Trade land with the school district for affordable housing possibilities.

· Restore historic ore wagons.

Projects to be completed in 2007 include:

· Implement affordable housing outside the city's core.

· Revise riparian zone ordinance.

· Deal with snow storage.

· Study Warm Springs Road issues.

· Amend planned unit development ordinance to eliminate three-acre minimum.

· Create a parks master plan.

· Consolidate Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments (pending consolidation study underway).

· Determine if the historic ore wagons should be moved to a more prominent location, and have the Ore Wagon Museum site be used for employee housing.

· Implement building conservation codes.

· Create a city employee housing policy.

· Inventory city rights of way in the commercial core.

· Implement a right-of-way policy for new construction.

· Determine other resort towns' best practices in various areas.

Projects to be completed at some unspecified time in the future include:

· Create a transfer of development rights system.

· Develop city parking lots.

· Acquire land for open space.

· Acquire land for affordable housing.

· Create a riparian zone ordinance for property being annexed.

· Build employee housing.

· Enhance city's gateways to the north and south.

· Establish a plan for the north part of the Park & Ride lot on Saddle Road.

· Study resource development through grants, business improvement districts and local improvement districts.

· Create a system of neighborhood block captains.

· Determine how best to use treated wastewater.

· Enhance training for city supervisors.

· Deal with storm water.

· Consider consolidation with Sun Valley Water and Sewer District.

Projects that should be monitored include:

· Areas of city impact.

· River Run annexation (Sun Valley Co.).

· McHanville area south of town.

City leaders also transferred some projects to other entities. Business development should be tackled by the community development corporation and the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau. Ernest Hemingway house and public access should be considered by the Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission and the CDC.

The Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority should look into down-payment assistance for low- to moderate-income earners. KART should continue to look into alternative transportation means. The CDC should also study renewable energy options for the city and a green buildings system.

The huge to-do list prompted a discussion about city staffing levels.

"I don't think we have the staff to deal with this list," said Councilman Ron Parsons. "We have fewer employees than we did three years ago, and the list is five times as long. If this was my honey-do list, I couldn't deal with it."

Tracy said the city should be staffing according to what its needs are, "and we're not doing that."

The Planning Department is at half-staff, with one clerical position being filled by a temp. Two of four professional planner positions are unfilled.

That department's role in the to-do list is large, and it is taking the lead on regulatory aspects of the downtown master plan. The staffing issue also comes at a time of growth, moratoriums and zoning-related statewide initiatives.

"My back is breaking," Moniz said.

"Planning," LeBlanc said, "is a department that's in crisis."

Coming Friday: The city's discussion on parking.


Public wi-fi in Ketchum's future?

Residents of Ketchum could find themselves with free wi-fi if Councilman Steve Shafran's plan is realized.

"It works great for emergency services, but it's also one of these gifts to the citizens," he said. "It says not only, 'We're open for business,' but there's a trendiness in it. It's not that expensive. I'd love to see this happen."

The idea will be assigned to the Community Development Corporation for further study.


Hotel committee in the making?

A hotel planning committee could be formed in the future to help guide the process of getting appropriate hotels built in Ketchum.

One or two council members would be joined by community professionals to form the advisory group.


Could zero-based budgeting tighten budget?

The city may implement a new budget process called zero-based budgeting. Every five years, one or two departments would start from scratch with their budget requests, rather than relying on figures from the previous year, and adding a few dollars to that.

"They'd have to come in and argue for every single expense," said Councilman Steve Shafran. "There's a lot more integrity to it, and less assumptions."

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