Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rotarun redevelopment plan goes before county

Next meeting on ski area plan set for Thursday, May 8

Express Staff Writer

Members of the Rotarun Ski Club have applied to Blaine County to redevelop the community-driven Rotarun Ski Area, located west of Hailey in Croy Canyon. Photo by David N. Seelig

During a presentation before the Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday, April 24, public comment was mixed regarding a proposal by members of the Rotarun Ski Club to upgrade facilities at the popular community-run ski area in Croy Canyon.

The low-cost alternative to pricier skiing on nearby Bald Mountain is 2.5 miles west of Hailey on land owned by Blaine County.

Under the ski club's proposal, the recreational site would sport a seven-tower, double chairlift, new snowmaking equipment and a 3,200-square-foot day lodge donated by a Ketchum developer. In its former life, the lodge served as the Ketchum headquarters for Sun Valley Helicopter Ski Guides.

Sun Valley Co. donated the chairlift to the ski club, which is a community-owned, nonprofit organization run by volunteers and paid staff.

Under their proposal, the lodge building would be remodeled and expanded by 500 square feet to include a rental shop, a ticket and race desk, restroom facilities, a food-service area, room for dining, an office for the Rotarun Ski Club and a multipurpose room. The ski area's existing building would be used by local ski teams.

The proposed snowmaking system would include 12 snowmaking guns, a lined holding pond, a pumping station and in-ground transfer pipes.

The existing Rotarun facilities consist of a rope tow, a seven-tower Poma surface lift, a 1,600-square-foot day lodge that contains restrooms and a limited food service area and a 40-car dirt parking lot. The ski area provides night and weekend skiing to the public on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Under Blaine County zoning, the approximately 30-acre Rotarun ski area falls into the Recreational Development District, with portions of the property also falling into the county's Mountain Overlay District.

Perhaps most concerning for some is the ski area's location adjacent to the Sage Springs subdivision.

Whether the ski area has the necessary water rights to operate the new snowmaking system was at the center of the debate throughout the meeting.

Former county P&Z commissioner Judy Harrison, a resident of Sage Springs, suggested that the P&Z commission require the ski club to post a performance bond to guarantee timely completion of the project. Harrison, who heads the Sage Springs Homeowners Association, said she isn't necessarily against the project, but just wants to make sure it's well planned.

"Let's do this right and make sure Rotarun is the best little ski area it can be," she said.

But many others seemed to think the members of the Sage Springs Homeowners Association were unfairly burdening the little ski area with their numerous requests.

Wood River Valley resident Barry Luboviski said the plan complies with all of the county's requirements for the recreational district. He said the ski area provides local working families who may not be able to afford to ski at Sun Valley with an opportunity to ski.

"It's about the only place in the county that hasn't been priced out," he said.

Luboviski, an attorney, also told the P&Z commissioners to ignore the statements by the Sage Springs homeowners regarding the question of adequate water rights. He said questions of water rights are within the purview of the Idaho Department of Water Resources, not local jurisdictions.

"Water rights are none of your business," he said.

Numerous families who have sent children to Rotarun over the years were also present during the meeting.

"My children were raised out there," said Joan Davies, a longtime volunteer at the ski area whose work there goes back to the early 1960s.

After taking testimony for nearly two hours, the P&Z voted to continue its consideration of the Rotarun application until its May 8 meeting.

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