Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Questions for Ketchum

I am aware that Ketchum needs new hotels to promote tourism and that to be economically viable the hotels must exceed current size limitations. However, I have some serious concerns besides the usual parking, traffic, and view-blocking concerns.

1. Will large hotels actually promote, as some have said, "a vibrant community?" Those who work in the hotels will leave town when the workday is done—tourists, while important for the economy, are only part of the vibrant community that city consultant Tom Hudson's plan envisions.

2. It would seem to be putting the cart before the horse to build big hotels before we build adequate affordable housing. Sadly, there is no stopping growth, and Ketchum cannot be a small town forever, so we must increase density in or near the community core in order for the town to be viable once again. While increasing density in the community core may not necessarily stave off sprawl in other parts of the valley, at least it may bring Ketchum back to life if it provides incentives for those who work here to live here.

3. That being said, will there be an adequate work force to staff such large hotels anyway? New immigration laws, which are being proposed as this is being written, may affect the availability of a work force to man these hotels, as may rising gas prices. If this occurs, the hotels might be turned into condominiums.

4. What is the future of tourism here? Global warming and other factors may affect the future of snow sports in the West.

5. Design-wise, just what is an "aged mountain craftsman look" anyway? Good design should trump an effort to please everyone by presenting a smorgasbord of "tried and true" architectural styles that might result in buildings that are devoid of character. If we are going to lose most architectural vestiges of Ketchum's history, which seems likely, then we should at least design new buildings that will stand on their own merit. The new Sun Valley Center design appears to be an example of the latter—hopefully.

Our planners and city officials have a lot on their plates. I wish them luck.

Jeanne Flowers


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