Friday, December 19, 2008

Pig in a poke?

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall and the City Council need to demonstrate to the public that they're not buying a pig in a poke by accepting a $1.3 million payment and a lease on four acres of property with clouded development rights in lieu of construction of workforce housing by the Thunder Spring development.

They also need to explain why the city should strike a deal with a development owned by the failed financial services firm Lehman Bros.

The deal was approved this week.

It followed the council's rejection of the recommendation of its own Planning and Zoning Commission to allow Thunder Spring to build workforce housing on property bordering the Bigwood Golf Course.

Instead, the city now has agreed to accept a lease with only the hope that the property's owners will donate it to the city.

Worse, the property is clouded by legal questions because of a plat note imposed by a long-ago City Council that called for it to remain open in perpetuity. At best, a declaratory judgment court action will be necessary to remove the cloud.

The city needs to show how, where and when workforce housing, not a fire station as one councilman proposed, will be built.

In-lieu payments for anything from parking to housing have a deservedly bad reputation in Ketchum. Historically, the glacial pace of government and failure to accrue fast enough to keep up with construction cost increases has ravaged them.

The city shouldn't be doing a questionable deal just to get upset developers and upset neighbors off its back.

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