Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Dating Game

Hopefully, many of you remember the ABC television show that ran from 1965 to 2000. The premise of the show was a bachelorette or bachelor would question three bachelors or three bachelorettes, who was hidden from their view; at the end of the questioning period, she or he would choose one to go out with on a date paid for by the show. It appears we have our own version of the "Dating Game" now being played out on the stage of the Ketchum Planning Department. In this case the bachelor is DDRM, the lead developer for the proposed Warm Springs Ranch Resort. Our three bachelorettes are supposed to be three different five-star hotels. The bachelor, Chuck Klingerstein, project director for DDRM, has told the audience and the bachelorettes he would only pick his date, if the Planning and Zoning Commission and Ketchum's City Council approves his plan. At that point, he will make his pick and let us know which five-star hotel the residents of Ketchum will be lucky enough to bless our community.

What is really interesting is that when the applicant first came to town for some predevelopment meetings with the public, they were promising the St. Regis Hotel chain. However, they are not bantering that name around any longer—either because the applicant didn't have St. Regis committed or St. Regis lost interest in the project. Either way DORM is not playing by the rules in my mind. They want the neighborhoods in Warm Springs to endure living through one of the largest construction projects in Ketchum's history. This project will add a lot more traffic on Warm Springs Road, which is already overburdened during peak resort times. They are also seeking a variance on the building height to 97 feet, making this a virtual high-rise (five stories) in a residential neighborhood. This will give the developer the distinction of having the tallest building in Ketchum.

It seems to me that the P&Z and the City Council shouldn't be spending their valuable time and our tax dollars reviewing a project where the developer won't even name the hotel. What is even more incomprehensible, that our bachelor is telling the press and City Hall that this hotel project will bring in an additional $36 million in tax revenue to the city and $389 million in retail sales to the Ketchum retailers over the next 15 years. How in the world does our bachelor expect anyone to believe this if they can't or won't name the hotel chain? What if our bachelorette turns out to be a Holiday Inn? Maybe they are hoping that if they get the approval, they can go and shop for a hotel user. This hotel project is really a real estate development deal with homes, condos, and hotel rooms for sale with a limited number of rooms for rent.

They are keeping the golf course, but now it appears there will only be limited tee times for the public. So much for saving the golf course for the locals.

I am in favor of having new hotels developed in our town. However, they belong downtown or at the base of Warm Springs or River Run which would revitalize the downtown or offer ski in/out lodging which almost all major ski resorts enjoy. Any new hotel development should not be at the expense of the many families who have put their hard-earned money into their homes to raise their families in real neighborhoods. Lastly, when any hotel gets to the City Council for approval, there should be a condition of approval for the hotel operators to set aside several thousand dollars per room approved per year. This would be used for the ongoing marketing support services to offer incentives to other airlines to service Sun Valley. We can build all the hotel rooms we want, but if you can't get the tourists here, those rooms will be vacant. No one wants to see headlines like the recent ones announcing Tamarack Resort has filed bankruptcy.

Oh yeah ... is it Bachelorette No. 1, Bachelorette No. 2, or Bachelorette No. 3?

Wally Limburg


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