Friday, April 4, 2008

Under the magnifying glass

Warm Springs Ranch developer faces challenges as P&Z process begins

Express Staff Writer

Developer DDRM Greatplace’s proposed Warm Springs Ranch Resort would include a five-star hotel, as well as privately owned residences, a nine-hole golf course and the reintroduction of the local-favorite Warm Springs Restaurant. The project is still in the design review stage.

It came as little surprise that the development team of the proposed Warm Springs Ranch Resort faced numerous questions about height and scale during a public workshop with the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission this week.
Around 150 members of the public filed into the River Room of the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood on Tuesday, April 1, to listen to a presentation from DDRM Greatplace, the developers proposing the 77-acre, mixed-use project.
In its current design, the resort would feature a five-star 75-room hotel, 45 condominium units for rent, a nine-hole golf course and 90 residences made up of townhomes, villas and estate lots. As well, there would be a meeting space, a 3,400-square-foot events house, spa, bar and two restaurants, including a reincarnation of the Warm Springs Restaurant.
The presentation and subsequent question-and-answer session were preceded by an open house in the adjacent gymnasium in which different stations had been set up to provide information and renderings regarding the different aspects of the project. Displays included: architecture; recreation, trails, open space and planning; economic, fiscal and community benefits; environment; transportation and parking; eco-consciousness and green design.
It was clear from where the crowds congregated that the transportation and architecture plans were top priorities for consideration.
A computer-generated model, based on data compiled by the developer’s consultant and the Idaho Transportation Department, showed the flow of traffic on Warm Springs Road.
The model included a roundabout at the intersection with Flower Drive and two new streets on the south side of Warm Springs Road that would serve as access to the east and west portions of the development. As proposed, the eastern street would replace Townhouse Lane.

As well, workshop attendees were treated to a scale model of the development, showing the layout of the various buildings, though the villas lining the golf course were notably absent.
However, that was not enough to satisfy either the commission or the public, as more information about the hotel’s 93-foot height, about 60 feet of which would rise above Warm Springs Road.
“The concerns are with mass and scale so why not dial it back?” one member of the audience asked of the developer.
Chuck Klingenstein, project director for DDRM, responded by saying that no developer in a Western resort town would be able to afford a large, deluxe hotel without the residential component due to the current national financing situation.
In order to get a better idea of how the height could impact neighboring residents and view corridors in general, the commission made a variety of requests. They included a detailed solar study to see where shadows from the building fall, erecting story poles to give an accurate sense of heights and renderings that show cross sections of the project in relation to existing buildings.
In addition, Commissioner Sam Williams asked if it would be possible to disperse the parking around the project so the two-story, 266-stall parking structure could be reduced as a way of lowering the entire building by at least one story.
The development team, of which around a dozen members were present, did not provide immediate answers since the meeting’s purpose was for the commission to request further information.
Other issues to be addressed include the density and location of the 40,741-square-foot workforce housing building, which would house 92 employees, approximately 60 percent of the hotel’s staff. That housing is near a portion of the town homes, all of which would be accessible from Bald Mountain Road, considered by the street department to be dangerous and substandard.
As well, the proposed golf course drew concerns ranging from the potential of pesticide pollution of Warm Springs Creek to the restriction of tee times available to the public, which, according to Commissioner Rich Fabiano, is proposed as once per hour during peak season.
While the five-hour workshop concluded with many questions yet to be resolved, the commission made it clear that this would be an ongoing process that, if done correctly, could lead to a positive addition to Ketchum and the Wood River Valley community.
“This is just the first meeting in a series—it’s just the start,” Fabiano said. “If we can get some of the details worked out, we could have a beautiful project.”
Ketchum Community and Economic Development Director Lisa Horowitz said there will be more public workshops before the city staff renders its report next month.
As well, Horowitz said that if everything goes according to plan, the commission could decide on a recommendation for the City Council by its June 17 meeting.

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