Friday, August 21, 2009

Resort: Project could mean millions

Ketchum will commence review of annexation request next month

Express Staff Writer

Construction of a new gondola on Bald Mountain is nearing completion, scheduled for mid-November, and will be in operation in time for the 2009-10 ski season. The gondola is part of Sun Valley Co.ís plan for improvements to the mountain and its property at the base of River Run. Photo by Willy Cook

Sun Valley Co. is stating that its proposed 140-acre development at the River Run base of Bald Mountain could net Ketchum between $6.7 million and $10.2 million over a 14-year period from 2010 to 2024. Another $20.3 million could come to the city in the form of Urban Renewal Agency revenue during that same time.

The potential economic benefits are presented in a financial impact analysis prepared for the resort by Boulder, Colo.-based RRC Associates.

For its analysis, RCC assumed the final project would include a 150- to 200-room hotel, about 520 residential units, 35,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, a parking structure and an open park. The calculations were based on construction taking place between 2012 and 2023, though it is noted that market conditions could affect the timing.

Sun Valley Co. submitted its application to develop the River Run area last week. There is no mention in the application packet of how the project would be phased. Resort officials were not available to comment on specifics of the plan.

For the project to move forward, the Ketchum City Council has to approve annexing into the city almost 140 acres, of which 60 are developable. The land is currently under the jurisdiction of Blaine County.

The resort's plans for River Run were first unveiled in 2004, and are part of Sun Valley Co.'s 50-year master plan, which also includes residential development near the new White Clouds golf course, and possibly a gondola connecting Sun Valley, downtown Ketchum and River Run.

"This could have a huge impact on the local economy," Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks said. "Looking at the plans, this would be a major, world-class resort."

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Marks said he has not had an opportunity to analyze RCC's calculations and that the city would likely conduct an independent review of the economic impacts.

If the City Council approves the annexation request and planned-unit development application, Marks said, it would probably be in the best interests of the city to include the property in Ketchum's urban renewal district. The district, established in 2006, generates revenue from a mechanism afforded to cities that directs a portion of increases in property tax rolls that occur through new development or inflation. That portion goes to the agency rather than to Blaine County. The revenue then goes to support infrastructure improvement projects within the district.

If the city includes the project in the district, RCC estimates that it will bring in $20.3 million from 2010 to 2024 and then $4.1 million per year thereafter.

If the city does not include the River Run property in the district, it will collect more on regular Ketchum property taxes, but not as much with the district option, estimates indicate.

Ketchum Community and Economic Development Director Lisa Horowitz announced Monday that the Planning and Zoning Commission will get its first look at the annexation request on Wednesday, Sept. 30. That meeting will be followed by a series of public hearings on Tuesday through Thursday, Oct. 27-29.

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