Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ketchum hotel regs approved

Plans to move and renovate Louie?s OK?d

Express Staff Writer

After at least six meetings and hours of discussions on specific requirements for developers wanting to build hotels in downtown Ketchum, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday, Sept. 24, sent specific recommendations to the City Council for final consideration.

The regulations, approved after almost two hours of discussion, including two separate public hearings, included a ratio for the number of employee housing units required in relation to the number of rooms a hotel has. The commission also approved specific downtown core locations where five-story hotels would be allowed.

Three ongoing viable hotel projects are on the table as civic and business leaders are seemingly becoming more intent on locating a five-star hotel in Ketchum where currently none exists. This comes in the wake of Dallas-based Open House Partners withdrawing its plans for a hotel on the Bald Mountain Lodge-Gateway site at the southern entrance to downtown Kethchum after alleging too much city bureaucracy killed the deal. City officials denied that, saying Open House could not close a deal to buy the sites involved.

The three hotel proposals currently going through the P&Z vetting process are the Ketchum Hotel at Main and River Streets, the Ketchum Lodge on the Simplot lot across from the post office on Second Avenue and the Warm Springs Ranch Resort off Warm Springs Road.

The P&Z on Monday night, approved the following proposed amendments to the city's zoning code in the Community Core and Tourist districts:

· Since the concept of modern, five-star hotels includes fractional residential units and regularly rented hotel rooms, 50 percent of the project's gross floor area may be residential (not in the normal room rental pool) without being subject to community housing requirements.

· Hotels will be required to offset employee housing impacts by providing housing for 25 percent of the number of employees at a ratio of one employee per hotel room or bedroom.

· Five-star hotels may be approved as a planned unit development (mechanisms by which developers can provide city-sought amenities in exchange for more development density).

· Five-story hotels may now be allowed on Main Street as far south as River Street, while previously they were not allowed between First and River streets.

· The P&Z proposed changed wording in the zoning regulations to say "development agreement" instead of "hotel agreement" as requested for clarification by developers.

Other non-hotel-related actions the commission took Monday night included:

· Approval of the final plat for the all-but-completed Chilali Lodge, a 25-unit subdivision at 260 Second Ave.

· Approval of the design review application to move and renovate Louie's, the 1881 Congregational Church, from city-owned property near the YMCA to 580 N. East Ave. The old church, formerly operated as pizza parlor, will have a rear addition for kitchen and bathroom facilities and will be open to the public on some level for use as a meeting hall or for private parties, said Jed Gray, representing the owners. The Ketchum Historical Commission and other groups worked to preserve the structure.

· Approval of an application by Wood River Wi-Fi for wireless Internet service in the downtown core and at the same time approval of the installation of an antenna system on light poles and rooftops, including several city-owned buildings.

Ketchum Community Wi-Fi plans to officially launch the new wireless network Sept. 28 at the Kick Ash Bash. The service will be free.

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