Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Size matters

Height of Warm Springs hotel remains issue; workforce housing relocated

Express Staff Writer

The proposed Warm Springs Ranch Resort would feature a five-star, 75-room hotel as its centerpiece, which would have a two-story parking structure located beneath six floors of guest rooms and residences. The planned roof height of 93 feet has been an issue of concern for both members of the public and the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission. Courtesy graphics

Though the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission gained a greater understanding of the Warm Springs Ranch Resort design at a meeting on Thursday, April 24, the overall height of the hotel remains an issue.

Stan Castleton, CEO of development company DDRM Greatplace, was on hand with head architect Mark Philp to delve into the history of their proposed project, which began just over one year ago and has gone through nine different iterations before arriving at the design currently in front of the city.

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, wellness center, bar and two restaurants, including a reincarnation of the Warm Springs Restaurant.

The hotel itself also includes two stories of parking that sit below six floors of hotel rooms and residential units.

From the numerous public meeting that have taken place thus far in the planned-unit development application process, the height of the project's hotel has been a continual concern, as the roof would peak at 93 feet, with an average of 84 feet. Dale Bates, the project's local architect, said the roof would sit 60 feet above Warm Springs Road, roughly the same height as the Sun Valley Lodge, now the tallest building in the Wood River Valley.

However, commission members recognized that the height was a top concern for residents and asked the developer to look into possible means of lowering the building.

"This is clearly one of the hottest topics, so what can you do to minimize it?" Commissioner Michael Doty asked.

In searching for solutions, Commission Co-Chairman Rich Fabiano wondered if the top floor could be broken up and relocated, with those rooms moved to another section of the hotel. However, Bates explained that the sixth floor, which sits within the pitched roof, would solely contain the second level of the private residential units, accessible only from the floor below.

As well, the idea of removing one level of parking to bring the hotel down by one floor has also been floated. Bates said that would be impossible, as the parking structure is underground on the north side of the hotel, making this a nonviable option for guest rooms.

"It would be a shifting game," Doty said. "I understand that sinking the rooms wouldn't work, but maybe you could put the 'back of house' there."

This option of moving some of the hotel services to reduce the height remains a possibility, and DDRM's Project Director Chuck Klingenstein said the development team will continue to look into the issue.

"This is a constant process," Klingenstein said. "We're heading toward a concept that is part of the PUD master plan and to get everyone comfortable with the overall idea of the project."

Klingenstein said that if the commission gives its approval at this stage, the developer would still have to come back for a vigorous design-review process to work out every detail.

During the meeting, an important item accidentally came to light, as the developer used site plans in the presentation that were not to be submitted to the city until the following Monday.

Whereas the previous plan had approximately 40,000 square feet of workforce housing situation just west of the hotel, adjacent to Warm Springs Road, the new design relocates this housing to the eastern side of the hotel.

Joy Kasputys, community liaison for the developer, said the change was in response to public comment at the April 1 workshop. At that meeting, a number of residents expressed concern about having the housing block, which would be home to over half the resort's employees, so close to Warm Springs Road.

However, while the new plan received praise from a number of the commission members, it did not escape criticism.

Diane Otis, a part-time resident who owns property on nearby Townhouse Lane, said she opposed the change, as it could have impacts, especially increased noise.

Klingenstein said the workforce housing and any other remaining issues will be discussed at the next public workshop, which will take place Thursday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.

The commission is expected to make a decision on the project on June 19.

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