Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rezone is a wolf in sheep’s clothing


Dr. Jim Hodge is a Ketchum dentist.

By DR. JIM HODGE

As a 28-year resident of Ketchum and a local employer, I am fully aware of how the changing demographics are affecting the vitality of our city. I am in favor of sensible measures that encourage more full-time residents of Ketchum and the north valley as long as it is consistent with existing zoning, the comprehensive plan and does not diminish that for which we all moved here. I am addressing the decision of the Ketchum P&Z to recommend approval of David Hutchinson's application for subdividing and rezoning property dedicated to open space in perpetuity for the purpose of providing 19 community housing buildings.

Sadly, the subdivision and rezoning and the open space on the hillside between the Bigwood Golf Course and the Ketchum Cemetery is not about community housing.

- It's about the city government failing for the past 10 years to enforce Thunder Springs' development agreement requirement to provide housing on its own property.

- It's about a real estate developer working behind the scenes with his personal friends in city government for over a year on the plan.

- It's about the P&Z going around city attorney, Ben Worst, to get outside legal opinion that it is OK to ignore the contractual right of consent of the Bigwood Property Owners Association to change the use of this property for anything other than open space or golf course. Proposals to develop this property in the past have been denied several times due to contractual agreements to leave the property zoned for open space in perpetuity, never to be developed for dwellings.

- It's about the P&Z approving the application at the first hearing on April 10, 2008, after only two weeks of limited notification of property owners within 300 feet at a time when it was obvious that the vast majority of residents would be out of town. Only three people were present to object to the application. This measure deserves the attention of all the citizens of Ketchum.

- It's about developers attempting to maximize profits by not putting their required housing on their own property as recommended by the Blaine County Housing Authority.

- It's about the P&Z commissioners having their mind made up in favor in spite of overwhelming contrary public comment.

- It's about one of the P&Z commissioners not recusing himself due to bias based on a long-term close personal relationship with the applicant.

- It's about the city government spending thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to make a plan and then changing it to satisfy the will of developers.

- It's about the creeping malfeasance and misconduct on the part of a poorly managed and financially troubled city government desperate to approve inappropriate, if not illegal, projects in order to get permit fees.

This project is just plain wrong. I couldn't disagree more with Rich Fabiano's comment, "I can't think of a better place for community housing." On the contrary, I can't think of a worse place. Let me count the ways: 17 ugly buildings, with no garages or guest parking, on a hillside at the gateway to the city, between a golf course and a cemetery, with dangerous access to Highway 75, with no place for storage of recreational equipment, children to play or snow storage and limited access for emergency vehicles. Just try to imagine 19 buildings that look like the one recently built for the cemetery on Highway 75 jammed together on the hillside at the entrance to the city from the north.

This project is the epitome of NIMBY on the part of Dave Hutchinson and Thunder Springs. The P&Z commissioners have been deluded by the false premise that this is about community housing. Certainly, there are better options for solving the housing dilemma than desecrating what little open land is left at the northern entrance to the city next to our cemetery. A good start would be to have the developers put housing on their own property as required by the original development agreements. Surely, the council will see through this smoke screen and disapprove of these measures at the June 30 City Council meeting.




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