Friday, August 10, 2007

City studies impacts of Gun Club plan

Resort plans to build some 400 units near new golf course

Express Staff Writer

Architects rendering by Ruscitto/Latham/Blanton Architecture-- Sun Valley Co.?s proposed Nordic and golf center would be located on the east side of Trail Creek Road, approximately one mile north of the existing golf clubhouse.

The city of Sun Valley is digesting a traffic study commissioned by Sun Valley Co. and conducted by LSC Transportation Consultants in Tahoe City, Calif.

The study's intent is to provide the city with information on how the buildout of the proposed Gun Club Land Use Planning Area, as well as other planned developments in the city, will affect transportation and what improvements will be necessary to mitigate such growth. The study was a condition of the city's approval of Sun Valley Co.'s Gun Club project.

"The Gun Club transportation study was definitely comprehensive," Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson said. "Sun Valley Co. sure got its money's worth."

The Gun Club planning area is located along Trail Creek Road to the north of Old Dollar Road. Sun Valley Co. has plans to build 30 single family residences, 365 multi-family residences, potentially 55 workforce housing units, a new Nordic center/golf clubhouse and 18 additional golf holes—bringing the total number of golf holes at Sun Valley Co. to 36.

The 76-page study presents several suggestions to the city to help mitigate the increased traffic a project of such scale would generate. Expanding the fixed bus routes is one suggestion. The study states if KART (Ketchum Area Rapid Transit) extends a bus route to serve the Gun Club development site the addition would add one mile and approximately three minutes to the to route running time. This could potentially reduce the attractiveness for riders going between Elkhorn and Ketchum, offsetting the additional ridership generated by the route extension.

Adding public Dial-a-Ride services has been implemented in many other mountain resort towns. The goal of Dial-a-Ride services is to fill in the gaps inevitably left by public mass transit, specifically service to the various cul-de-sacs located in and around Sun Valley. The goal would be to have three 20-passenger vans with ski racks to provide service in a 20-minute radius from Sun Valley Circle from 7 a.m. to midnight. Residents and visitors could call for pick-ups for service to the Sun Valley Circle, Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge or Elkhorn Village where they would be provided direct transfers to KART buses. This is estimated to generate roughly 70 passenger trips on a busy winter day.

The study also suggests that beginning summer KART service earlier could also accommodate more riders. At present, KART starts at 7 a.m., too late for some commuters. Starting at 6 a.m. could add roughly 8 to 10 passenger trips per day. On the flip side, offering KART service to 2 a.m. on the Warm Springs route cold also increase ridership. Aspen, Colo. is one resort city offering public transportation untill 2 a.m.

The idea of combining the private bus services offered by Sun Valley Co. with KART and PEAK buses is another suggestion put forward in the study. Aspen; Snowmass; Vail; Steamboat Springs and Summit County in Colorado; Park City, Utah; and Jackson, Wyo., all have integrated transportation systems. Potential advantages include increased efficiency, easy-to-read public transit maps, increased opportunities to coordinate transit services and increased access to federal transit funds.

Disadvantages could include that Sun Valley Co. guests' expectations and quality of service may differ from that of the general public. The process of integrating private and public institutional and financial agreements can be costly and time consuming, and current employees could find their salaries and benefits may change.

Improving the infrastructure of the current public transportation system has been high on Sun Valley city officials' list of priorities and was suggested by the study as well. The addition of more bus pullouts, transit shelters, benches and bicycle parking facilities can increase ridership and commuters' comfort.

The study concludes that increased transit service frequency is the number one desire of KART, PEAK and Sun Valley Co. bus riders. Private motor vehicles are the dominant mode of transportation. However, the Sun Valley area is well ahead of the national average when it comes to non-auto modes of travel, and that includes biking, walking and public transportation. In the summer Sun Valley sees an estimated 11 percent of travelers using modes other than private cars, and in the winter 9 percent opt for alternative transportation. The national average is 2 percent.

The study also discusses the prospect for a Sun Valley Village to River Run gondola, with a possible stop in downtown Ketchum. The study states the gondola would result in "modest improvements in peak-hour winter traffic." However, due the scale of the project and the multiple cities affected, a further study with a full evaluation of traffic in Ketchum would be required.

Other projects on the horizon in Sun Valley include:

· Resort/Village Core Land Use Planning Area (400 additional hotel rooms, 145 multi-family units or condominiums, 295 workforce housing units and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.

· Gateway Land Use Planning Area (125 multi-family units).

· Dollar Mountain/Prospector Hill/Sun Valley Municipal Complex Land Use Planning Area (32 single-family units and 60 multi-family units).

· Elkhorn Springs Master Plan (20 paired homes, 96 multi-family units, 15 affordable housing units and about 11,000 square feet of commercial space.

· Sunshine Master Plan (two paired homes, 64 multi-family units, 10 workforce housing units and 4,280 square feet of commercial space).

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