Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ketchum CDC seeks federal dollars

Five-building project would be on Park and Ride lot

Express Staff Writer

This graphic depicts preliminary designs for two of the five affordable workforce housing apartment buildings proposed for the north end of the city-owned Park and Ride lot in Ketchum, adjacent to the Wood River Community YMCA. For this project to move forward, the Ketchum Community Development Corp. has applied for a low-income housing tax credit that could provide over $7 million. Courtesy graphic.

The Ketchum Community Development Corp. expects to find out in December if it will receive over $7 million from the federal government to help construct 32 affordable rental units.

Michael Carpenter, chairman of the CDC's Affordable Workforce Housing Team, presented the plan at a special meeting of the Ketchum City Council on Monday. The project would require a land lease from the city.

If all the pieces fall into place, the five-building project, called Northwood Place, would total 32,000 square feet on a 0.84-acre parcel at the north end of the city-owned Park and Ride lot adjacent to the Wood River Community YMCA.

It would include 12 one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units, as well as 1,468 square feet of community, office and storage space.

There would be 33 parking spaces to service the project, and 41 percent of the parcel would remain open space. None of the buildings would be over three stories tall.

"We could have made it a lot bigger and taller, as the zoning allows for around twice the density we've designed here," Carpenter said. "But we want this to be a very attractive project and fit in with the rest of the neighborhood."

The CDC hopes to lease the property for 99 years for an estimated $890,000, 75 percent of which would be repaid at the start of construction.

However, in addition to the lease, the CDC has also applied for federally funded Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which would supply the bulk of the financing for the project at no cost to the city or its taxpayers. The application was made with the help of Allied Pacific Development, the development arm of a Seattle-based affordable housing consulting company called Pacific Housing Advisors.

Greg Dunfield, a director at Allied Pacific Development, was at the meeting to explain the tax-credit program, which would provide cash from corporations in exchange for tax benefits.

"This program is very competitive, but I feel that we have a very strong shot," Dunfield said of being approved for the tax credits.

The CDC would also look for a $1.9 million loan through a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, which would be repaid through the rent revenue.

By using the tax-credit program, the rents on the units would be restricted to workers who make less than about $46,000, 60 percent of the Blaine County mean income of $74,800.

Rents would range from $430 to $1,074 per month depending on the size of the unit.

"There's very few low-priced rental units in the north valley, especially for a modern product," Carpenter said. "Without the tax credits, we couldn't otherwise provide this type of building and charge $1,000 per month and under."

After hearing this preliminary presentation, the council will not take action on the lease agreement until a later meeting, possibly in late October or early November, but it was evident that the proposal had plenty of support.

"This is very exciting and could be a replicable model for other projects," Councilman Charles Conn said.

One reason for the optimism surrounding the project is its location, which Carpenter said is the most appropriate in the city. It is within half a block of the newly constructed Scott building, which also includes deed-restricted workforce housing, shielded from Saddle Road by large trees and is near the industrial center.

The CDC took over control of the site in August and had also considered using the property for a transportation hub or culinary and hospitality school. However, it was deemed that there's a dire need for workforce housing, especially due to tight credit markets.

"We want people to be able to afford to live here," said Carpenter, who noted that only 30 percent of homes in Ketchum are resided in full time. "We really don't know if people will continue to commute from Twin Falls and Shoshone."

While the details of the project are far from being finalized, Carpenter said he wants to provide a beautiful residence for teachers, firefighters and others essential to the community.

In other Ketchum news:

· The Ketchum City Council expressed concern over the upcoming vote on an override levy that would provide $835,000 for consolidation emergency dispatch services. As happened recently in Sun Valley, Ketchum council members said a funding system based on property value assessments would be inequitable, and that charging by call volume would be more fair.

If the levy passes, Ketchum would pay $214,033 beginning in 2010, as opposed to Hailey, which would pay $79,292 even though it uses the service more than any other city in Blaine County.

Even so, the Ketchum council authorized the county's agreement, which states that all parties will work to find a long-term solution to funding the dispatch service. It was clear, though, that city officials were not in favor of the levy.

· The council once again heard from engineers Steven Yearsley and Ryan Hales on the Warm Springs Road traffic study, which should be completed by November.

As with earlier presentations this year, the consultants discussed potential improvements for Warm Springs Road necessitated by growth. Included a stop light or roundabout at the intersection with Lewis Street and methods to improve safety at the intersection at Tenth Street.

However, council members appeared skeptical at the growth assumptions for Warm Springs, which estimate over 450 new homes there by 2025, causing the number of car trips per day to increase by 7.3 percent annually.

Council members asked that the traffic estimates be revised using lower growth estimates before they make a decision on any improvements.

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