Friday, January 11, 2008

Consultant gives vision of Warm Springs Village

Public voices ongoing concerns about traffic, parking

Express Staff Writer

The property where the Baldy Base Camp building, above, used to sit is a potential location for a hotel in Warm Springs Village. Owner Brian Barsotti said he has been trying to develop a viable hotel project for the past six years. Photo by Mountain Express

Design consultant Nore Winter, of Boulder, Colo.-based Winter & Co., this week gave the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission and more than 50 members of the public an idea of what Warm Springs Village redevelopment could look like.

At a special meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, Winter gave a presentation to a standing-room-only crowd in Ketchum City Hall using computer-generated depictions of how the addition of a five- or six-story hotel could fit into the Warm Springs base area.

The workshop was intended to give the commission an idea of the potential development that would be allowed if the city were to create a new zoning district encompassed in the area between Howard Drive and the Warm Springs lifts, and Ritchie and Skiway drives.

The area is part of the Pedestrian Access Overlay District, but a change could lead to greater permitted floor area and more permitted uses, as well as new design regulations and guidelines.

The area's mostly residential buildings are between only one and three stories. The new regulations would be implemented as a means of reestablishing year-round vitality with a variety of uses that could include restaurants, offices, retail shops and, perhaps most significantly, a large-scale hotel.

"This is not a formal proposal," Winter said while showing images of developments that were clearly on property not currently vacant. "I'm just showing what kind of regulations would be required to make this possible. I'm not suggesting land-acquisition opportunities and we haven't 'targeted' anyone's property."

Winter said the area is underperforming, especially for a major ski area, and that it is in danger of experiencing a "dark street syndrome," similar to what has happened in Aspen, where development has been largely in second homes.

To prevent that, Winter said, more density and taller buildings are needed to support retail investment, but only on sites deemed appropriate.

Many members of the public in attendance, mostly Warm Springs residents, expressed support for revitalizing and developing the base area, though with often-expressed concerns about traffic and parking.

"I'm all for increasing density, but where are we going to park the cars?" asked resident Scott Curtis. "If you went down there last weekend, you would know that it's a problem."

With skiers flocking to the mountain to take advantage of last Friday's snowstorm, Sun Valley's Greyhawk parking lot was completely full and parked cars lined both sides of Warm Springs Road by 9 a.m.

Winter said that the transportation issue would require a thorough study, the results of which would be incorporated into the design guidelines.

In addition to traffic, Winter said an economic analysis should also be performed to estimate how much revenue such development could produce, therefore determining if it would even be feasible.

Also raised was the question about the role of Sun Valley Co., with a number of attendees expressing consternation that the resort didn't have a representative at the meeting. Several members of the public and city officials said that since the company owns a significant amount of property on the west side of Warm Springs Creek, its cooperation with the city would be needed if major development were planned.

Ketchum developer Brian Barsotti, who owns the Baldy Base Camp property at the corner of Picabo Street and Skiway Drive, said he has been trying to build a hotel for the past six years, rather than going ahead with residential units, because the city made that request.

"I can't tell you today that this will get done," Barsotti said. "But we need a framework that will allow us to do it."

No decisions were made by the commission, but Community and Economic Development Coordinator Lisa Horowitz, following on a previous request from Councilman Baird Gourlay, asked that Winter's scope of work be expanded to include the Sun Valley Co. property.

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