Friday, January 9, 2009

Housing plan helps Warm Springs Ranch

P&Z gives luxury project green light once again


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

For the second time in less than a year, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that the City Council approve the proposed Warm Springs Ranch Resort.

At a special meeting on Wednesday, the commission lauded a proposal from Park City-based developer DDRM Greatplace to provide a long-term revenue stream to help fund community housing.

While the developer has maintained a commitment to housing a significant portion of the resort's employees on-site, the application previously did not include a provision for affordable housing open to the rest of the Wood River Valley's workforce.

When the P&Z originally approved the plan in July, it waived any community housing requirements, as is allowed by the city's planned-unit development process. The commission justified its decision on the grounds that the developer would be providing workforce housing for more than double the number of employees required by city code.

But when the developer came to the city at the beginning of December with a request for an additional 60,000 square feet, the council chose to remand the application back to the P&Z to ensure that the change did not affect its previous decision.

At a meeting last month, commission members said that they had no problem with the 30,000 extra square feet of circulation space deemed necessary by the developer. They did find issue, though, with a request for a 5 percent increase for "flex space" in the block of the property that would contain the hotel, townhomes, workforce housing and the Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant.

That would translate into another 30,000 square feet that could be used largely at the developer's discretion.

Commissioner Sam Williams calculated that without a waiver, the developer would be required to provide 41,500 square feet of affordable housing, which he estimated would cost between $6 million to $8 million to construct, not including the purchase of land.

Rather than pay a one-off, in-lieu payment, Castleton offered to include a 0.5 percent transfer fee on all for-sale units or lots in the resort project. The money would be given to Ketchum once the sale is closed with the understanding that a "significant portion shall be used for community housing."

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Castleton's proposal includes a requirement that the city match that amount with the additional property tax revenue it will receive through its urban renewal district as a result of construction of the resort. Richard Caplan, economic consultant for the city, said the tax revenue could total $13 million during the first 10 years of the project.

Under the terms of his offer to the city, Castleton's program could net the city $6 million. The transfer fee would also be imposed on every subsequent re-sale of the properties.

"If the average ownership in a resort is three and a half years, then this transfer fee would amount to a very significant amount of money," Commissioner Williams said. "If this goes on in perpetuity as planned, we should jump up and down for joy."

Before recommending the project for approval, Commission Co-Chairman Rich Fabiano said that the remand resulted in a great opportunity for the city, as this proposal would not have surfaced if the issue hadn't returned to the commission.

"I think we're lucky to get another bite at the apple," Fabiano said.

The City Council is slated to resume public hearings on the project in mid-February.




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