Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Size matters

I attended the "field trip" P&Z meeting at Warm Springs Ranch last summer, and was impressed by the matters addressed by both the developers and the council. The multi-faceted planning displayed great sensitivity to a variety of contentious issues including employee housing, green building and environmental impact concerns. The meeting adjourned with the acknowledgement that while the proposal showed promise, certain aspects would need revision.

Now, a year later, the biggest concern voiced that evening has not yet seen any meaningful consideration—size. As we toured the site last summer, my fellow attendees and I expressed universal amazement at the sheer magnitude of the proposed hotel. The overall plan seemed fair, but the hotel dimensions presented overwhelmed everyone. Since that time, it seems that disproportionate time has been spent emphasizing smaller, peripheral aspects of the overall development, apparently to the point of distraction.

Why has the enormity of this building escaped serious amendment in discussions between the developers and the P&Z? Why does anyone find it appropriate to build a structure the size of a Boise office building in Warm Springs?

The proposed plan, replete with monstrous hotel, is understandable from the private planners' perspective. It "pencils out," which is to say that it ensures maximum return on their construction investment. Why should it be incumbent upon Ketchum residents, however, to guarantee the profit margin for a private investor? If the developers cannot or will not reduce their hotel plans to an appropriate scale, then maybe this is not the right location for their project.

Of course the city of Ketchum seeks to attract new businesses and tax dollars, but this mission should not take precedence over protecting and maintaining its residents' quality of life.

Intelligent development should be welcomed, but building a colossal resort hotel in the middle of a residential neighborhood does not "pencil out." I favor the responsible redevelopment of Warm Springs Ranch. I do not favor building a massive hotel that will crush the character of Warm Springs.

Lars-Erik Johnson


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