Friday, December 8, 2006

Ketchum officials seeing progress

City leaders say advances made with CDC, town design

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall is expressing confidence in the city?s new Community Development Corporation. Photo by David N. Seelig

Ketchum's streets will inevitably fill up in the coming weeks with holiday visitors and local shoppers. But can the city keep that vibe going all year long?

The city is entering the second year of its master planning process, which began in October 2005.

The Urban Renewal Agency—which is an independent governmental entity—and the Community Development Corporation—a nonprofit entity—are moving forward with a two-pronged attack on Ketchum's waning economic vitality.

Both serve as funding mechanisms to revitalization.

"A CDC ... can move 100 times faster than government because they're not bound by the regulatory laws we are," said Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall.

Hall's reasoning for initiating a CDC, he said, is also to fulfill a campaign promise "to reach out into the community and pull out people with intellectual horsepower."

While the City Council is the acting board of the Urban Renewal Agency, the CDC is the entity that will bring in approximately 40 community members to help guide the revitalization process.

CDC committees are being established to work on particular areas in need of improvement. The chairperson of each committee will be on the CDC board of directors, along with the City Council. Council members will later resign as the entity becomes more established.

Workforce Housing

The affordable workforce housing team was organized last month, with Michael Carpenter as chairman. Carpenter is on the board of directors for Advocates for Real Community Housing.

"Once the City Council designated the new building code and zoning, we sent out a (request for proposals) for an architect to work with us for design on the initial project," said Tom Hudson, CDC executive director.

The Ketchum City Council selected Living Architecture on Dec. 4. Although the Ketchum-based firm was the only applicant, it has experience designing affordable housing projects in Ketchum, such as The Fields.

"We're very interested," Living Architecture founder and president Dale Bates said Monday. "We want to be able to prove that community housing works in Ketchum, and not just works, but works great."

Hall said the city appreciates the emphasis on "green" building. "That's the direction we want to go."

The job will include projects at Sixth and Leadville, Washington and Second and the north end of the Park & Ride lot on Saddle Road.

"It's not just creating space but a great livable place," Hudson said. "The difference is between a home and a shoebox. We're looking for a high degree of livability. We want them to be a very respectable part of the neighborhood."

The CDC hopes to have its first project under construction sometime in 2007.

Town Design

The Town Design Committee, with Bates as chair, is working to implement visual "rewards" throughout the city.

"They'll provide more details to all the good work completed by citizens at the DesignFest last February," Hudson said. Aspects of the downtown master plan will also serve as guidance, he said.

The initial project, a Fourth Street Heritage Corridor, is in the planning stages.

"It will be the open book of the history of Ketchum," Hudson said.

Construction could begin on the first half, from Spruce to Main on Fourth, by spring.

The pedestrian-priority area will have features such as public art, historical interpretation, artifacts and kiosks, but it will not be closed to traffic.

"That was never recommended by anybody on my team," Hudson said. But, "the traffic will need to move very slowly because of pedestrians."

Alternative transportation

The alternative transportation team's work was postponed because Ketchum city planner Beth Robrahn, who was to play a significant role in the committee, has been wrapped up in zoning code revisions.

"It should be up and running by the first of the year," Hudson said.

Sustainable community

There are two aspects to a sustainable community, Hudson said. One focuses on the technology of sustainability, while the other addresses the human factor, or sustaining community.

"The (CDC) board approved a team and is in the process of selecting a chair," Hudson said.

One of the first things it will address is alternative energy, including research on biomass and geothermal sources.

"All of the garbage generated by the community could be treated and turned into energy," Hudson said. "Any carbon waste that comes out of Ketchum could be turned into energy. If we're going to be good stewards of the land we need to be turning that into energy ... looking at best practices effectively and efficiently."

The committee could come up with standards not only to manage waste but for green, or environmentally friendly, construction.

The committee also could address continuing education opportunities, or lack thereof.

"We have a tremendous need for access to education," Hudson said. "It may be general education or specialty in the form of institutes."

Institutes could be for the performing arts, environment or culinary arts.

"We could become a host site for education in environmental stewardship and make that a basic industry for us," Hudson said. "Then these people become our customers at the same time."

"It's not just about sustainable development but sustainable community," Hudson added. "It's about sustaining the people and the place, and restoring balance in community."

Economic development

The economic development team is in the formative stages.

"They could help with recruitment of educational institutions, improvement of business retention, and would be highly focused on improving access to resources for business, like market information and affordable or micro retail space," Hudson said.

Resource development

The Resource Development Committee, with chairman Tim Mott, will work to obtain funds for covering day-to-day operational costs of the CDC. The committee will also work to fund programs, affordable housing and public art.

The team hasn't been established yet.

"Participation on these teams requires a significant time commitment," Hudson said. "They need to be regularly available, team-oriented, and have a high level of expertise. This is a business and we must depend upon highly reliable participation. It's not for the faint of heart."

For people who don't have that kind of time to commit, there will other chances for involvement.

"Once we've got core teams in place, there will be ample opportunity for other citizens to come forward on other projects," Hudson said.

A town hall meeting to introduce the committees to local citizens will be scheduled sometime this winter, Hall said.

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