Wednesday, December 13, 2006

City narrowing in on TDR system

Ketchum pins hopes on incentives to preserve historic structures

Express Staff Writer

A pedestrian walks in front of the Lane Mercantile building, which houses Starbucks Coffee. The city of Ketchum is working on creating incentives for the preservation of historic buildings, with extra incentives for targeted buildings such as the Lane Mercantile. Photo by David N. Seelig

In the ever-evolving discussion on how best to revise Ketchum's transfer of development rights system to preserve historic buildings, there are a few things that stand out as certain.

Some buildings, such as the Lane Mercantile on Main Street, where Starbucks Coffee is located, are gems of Ketchum heritage.

The Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission and Planning & Zoning Commission are working to revise the city's TDR system. That system, which has never been used in Ketchum, seeks to preserve historic buildings by allowing their owners to sell off development rights to owners of buildings elsewhere in town.

The idea is to create incentives for preservation while transferring density to other areas of town.

The P&Z on Dec. 7 and Dec. 11 discussed changes to the TDR chapter of the Community Core zoning district code. The voluntary TDR system has been the subject of dozens of meetings over the past year and a half.

"The fundamental issue is reaching a decision on how do we craft a TDR program that actually works and that people will use," said Jack Rutherford, P&Z chairman. "It's very hard to know when we've created enough incentives. We just have to put something out there and see if someone picks up on it."

The P&Z recommended a two-tiered classification for historic buildings.

The "gold star" category includes 15 buildings considered most precious by the Historic Preservation Commission.

"We're talking about incentivizing those more than any others," Rutherford said.

Owners would be allowed to sell between zero and 2.25 of their floor area ratio—a building's size in relation to its lot size.

The second level is "silver," which could sell up to 1.5 FAR. Those buildings have a historic value to them but do not rise to the value of gold star structures.

A third "bronze" level is still being debated. That category could include any building more than 50 years old but that's in need of more scrutiny to see if it rises to a level worth preserving.

"They don't have any TDR rights, but they would have the ability to apply for silver status," Rutherford said.

By giving a different status to "gold" buildings, ideally those TDRs would be purchased first.

"You want TDR protection working on those buildings more than the others," Rutherford said.

The P&Z also recommended allowing five-story hotels in a few select areas of town.

The recommendations now move to the City Council, which could take up the issue at the end of January.

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