Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ketchum P&Z Commission should not be discredited

My name is Burnsie. I am a business owner, and these words explain my position as a member of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission.

I am a longtime resident, a community-minded person, and I am very aware of the problems facing Ketchum today. Politics, decision-making, just living day by day is a game of perception. I believe what I believe, and you believe what you believe, and we try to come together with some sort of agreement.

However, life is a daily challenge of surprises and changes. I experienced this in the last year, serving on the commission. What is the real truth, the one answer? There cannot be just one answer. Hopefully, the process delivers progress, but is there perfection?

I committed myself to a challenging, time-consuming process, and I believe myself, staff, and fellow commissioners did the best we could. Under the circumstances, the material is confusing, and the numbers get pushed back and forth by those with different perceptions, wants, needs, and, yes, sometimes-personal agendas. I believe that is why there is a commission of five people, led by staff and then safeguarded by another body of five people, the City Council and mayor, all doing the best we can.

Our two newspapers have discredited all the work we have done finding solutions to the problems we have in our town today. Do newspapers sit in the whole process month to month, and do they read all the material? Do they fully understand the reasoning behind the numbers? Why do newspapers, voices to the people, make hurtful, judgmental summaries? Do the people deserve that? I ask you: Are your allegations based on fact, true fact? I think not.

Sue Bailey, bless her heart, does her job in calling us the wild card of the Wood River Valley, reporting that we eliminated inclusionary zoning in favor of incentives. Sorry Sue, not fact, not true, not friendly.

And our Mountain Express writes in an editorial, "P&Z mangles downtown master plan." Using unfavorable caricatures and accusations the Mountain Express wrote that "we (the commission) have no clue about the downtown economy, and the need for multi-use buildings downtown." Again, not fact, not truth.

Come on. I'm counting on saving the future of my business with one of those buildings, on the ground floor, owning my own space one day. So here are the facts, as simple as we could show you. Our commission unanimously approved a package of zoning regulations that my colleague, Jack Rutherford, lists here

Commercial Zone

Codification is the prioritization of conflicting demands.

- Housing:

—Larger buildings up to 2.25 FAR are permitted.

—Linkage housing fees adopted.

—15 percent to 20 percent inclusionary housing.

- Retail/Commercial:

—Subzone where first floor residential is prohibited.

—Exempted from housing requirements.

- Historic Preservation:

—TDRs are functionally enabled through FARs.

—Heritage TDRs have an enhanced value.

—Heritage TDRs can enable a fourth floor.

- Parking:

—Underground parking is functionally required based on use.

—Parking management program adopted.

- Open Space:

—Buildings under 1.0 FAR are permitted without restriction.

—Buildings on the perimeter of the CC zone have additional setbacks and undulation.

- Streetscape/Community Character:

—5-foot building setbacks.

—Buildings have 2.25 maximum FAR—preserves small-town scale.

In conclusion, misinforming our citizens and missing the big picture causes a loss of hope and a gain of fear. Are we that "uncivilized?" Does there always need to be someone to blame for everything? Or do we continue to strive for progress rather than perfection, living in a peaceful, loving, supportive community called Ketchum.

Debbie Burns, of Ketchum, owns women's clothing boutiques in Ketchum and Hailey. She is a member of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission and is active in the Ketchum Retailers' Alliance.

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