Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Uphold the public trust

On Tuesday July 1st, the Ketchum City Council held a public meeting regarding the affordable housing project proposed by Thunder Springs to be built on the narrow strip of land between the south end of the Bigwood Golf Course and the Ketchum Cemetery. The meeting, mostly taken up by public comment, lasted 4-1/2 hours and one must applaud the 3 council members present for their attentive patience. If you were fortunate enough to miss this endurance test I would like to give you my version of what transpired.

Forty or fifty people spoke to the councilmen present, and, with a few notable exceptions, opinions were well considered and well presented. Unfortunately, most of the opinions in favor of the proposed project were actually expressing support for the concept of affordable housing in general rather than addressing the specific proposal being considered. Those opposing the proposed project expressed support for the concept with equal enthusiasm but also took the next step and considered the appropriateness of the site, the proposed layout and design of the 19 proposed units and the legal implications as well.

There are lots of details involved, but what it seems to me to boil down to is that the piece of land m question is specifically identified on the plat notes as either open space or golf course use IN PERPETUITY. This is what the elected representatives signed at the time and that the public who had taken the time and made the effort to inform themselves and attend the meetings went away believing. Real estate investments were made and homes built (not by me, incidentally) based on that belief.

Enter the developer and their lawyers who want to comply with their mandated affordable housing commitment but don't want that housing on their own property; so they discover a contradiction between the plat note "in perpetuity" pledge and the CCRs which give the land owner more discretionary latitude. I believe it is a violation of the public trust in their elected officials and the entire public review process to go back and change "in perpetuity" by adding ''as long as it is convenient" to the definition.

Imaging how many more of the hundreds or thousands of other developments that have taken place over the years that may have loopholes which if fully exploited would dramatically affect surrounding landowners or the community at large.

Community housing seems a necessity in Ketchum. This is the wrong place for it for both practical and legal reasons.

Lloyd Betts


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