Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Setback assertion not in city code

On April 20, Ketchum City Attorney Ben Worst and Ketchum Planning Director Moniz made an alarming declaration.

Without acknowledging the city's "Certification of Foundation and Grading" requirement (a legally binding surveying procedure that properly positions a new building) or three decades of approved construction, Worst and Moniz announced that the city has always determined building setbacks by measuring the distance from a property line to the building's nearest exterior finish material.

This announcement, although possibly now practiced in Ketchum's commercial core zone, is in direct conflict with the city's codes, legal requirements and many longstanding practices. Even more concerning, though, is the fact that none of these aforementioned directives were cited in Worst's and Moniz's declaration.

In reality, building setbacks have always been determined by measuring the distance from a property line to a building's concrete foundation wall, also known as "face of structure." Thus, the difference between reality and this announcement is the thickness of a building's exterior finish (siding, window and door trim, stucco, brick, stone, etc.).

Although seemingly insignificant, this debate could have far-reaching consequences. For instance, if Worst and Moniz are deemed correct, any building permit approved by Ketchum's planning department during the past 30 years, or any foundation location that was certified by a licensed surveyor or civil engineer may now represent a nonconforming building.

When a building is declared "nonconforming," ability to modify that building is reduced, thereby also reducing property value. Meanwhile, any nonconforming building currently under construction may have to eliminate its nonconformity.

In addition to hundreds of existing homes and commercial buildings, some high-profile projects possibly affected by this announcement are Copper Ridge, the YMCA, Chilali Lodge, construction at the former Evergreen Restaurant site, and future permitting of construction on the lot at Sun Valley Road and Leadville.

Jeremy Fryberger


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