Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Plans unveiled for new hotel in Ketchum


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

The Main Street Ketchum site that was the subject of so many meetings, debates and eventually disappointment for developers is again stirring to life.

Applicant Bald Mountain LLC, through principal Steve Burnstead, has submitted to the city's Planning Department a pre-application design for a four-star, four-story hotel, including a pool, spa, bar/restaurant, conference space and underground parking.

"We're proposing a combination 80-room hotel with 18 or 19 residential components," Burnstead said by phone Tuesday.

Although he said the ideal timeline is to have construction begin in May 2007 and finish by late fall 2008, the city is still reviewing new zoning and building codes that will affect the proposed development.

As proposed, the project's fourth floor would have an ownership component. Those units would be put into the rental pool when not in use by owners.

The small and seasonal market in Ketchum wouldn't support the services planned for the hotel, such as the spa, without that component, Burnstead said.

"A critical component of any hotel is that it's a mixed-use building," he said.

Retail space would be part of the first floor. The spa, restaurant, bar and meeting and banquets rooms would also be publicly accessible space.

"We hope to secure an existing Ketchum restaurateur and have the bar and restaurant work together," Burnstead said, adding that he had not yet obtained such an agreement.

The applicant also hopes to provide a "high-end" shuttle service around town and to Bald Mountain, according to a letter sent to Ketchum Planning Director Harold Moniz.

That service could discourage automobile use, the letter states.

The project is 58 feet at its highest point. The fourth floor, mirroring projected rules under the city's new code, has a 10-foot setback.

Pre-application designs are required for certain types of projects, Moniz said. "It helps guide the development team in terms of their proposal."

The city's new form-based code, which emphasizes design and use over lot-to-building ratios, is under consideration by the city's Planning & Zoning Commission. Following its recommendation, the building still must be approved by the City Council. The target date for that is late December or January.

Because the developer made an application under proposed new rules, the Planning Department, not the P&Z Commission, will review its pre-application design.

"That would better utilize P&Z's time," Moniz said. And, "staff has a better understanding of codes and intent, and it's appropriate as professional planners that we give guidance and help the development community develop projects that will get approved."

Other aspects of the approval process would still be heard by the commission and council.

Burnstead said that some of the remaining 1929 cabins at the Main Street site, once part of the Bald Mountain Hot Springs Motel and "plunge" pool, likely will be torn down this week.

Parts of the lodge were moved to Hagerman three years ago. Several cabins and the old office building remain.

The cabins were under threat of removal several years ago when Ketchum developer Brian Barsotti planned a luxury hotel at 151 Main St.

The Ketchum City Council in 2003 approved the plans for an 80-room, 47-foot-high hotel there.

Financing fell through, however, derailing the project. He eventually sold the property to Bald Mountain LLC.

At the time, Barsotti said investors were interested in a hotel project only if the hotel rooms could be sold as fractional-ownership units. City code does not allow that, but the new regulations might.

"We're anxious to get it on to the council and for them to adopt some form of code so we know what our design parameters are as quickly as possible," Burnstead said.

"We've designed it to the ... proposed ordinance," he added. "We have some level of confidence it will be approved, but it's still a roll of the dice."




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