Friday, October 9, 2009

Sun Valley candidates tackle growth

Pizza and Politics forum puts City Council candidates in front of the voters

Express Staff Writer

All five Sun Valley City Council candidates shared the same message at the Pizza and Politics forum Wednesday at Carol's Dollar Mountain Lodge: Western resort towns are all vying for the same crowds, and this tourist-reliant town needs to stay in the game.

"We need to go from being ranked No. 7 in Ski magazine to No. 1," said candidate David Barovetto, referring to the magazine's recently released list of America's best resort towns.

The forum was hosted by the Idaho Mountain Express.

All candidates are running for two open seats. Council President Nils Ribi is running to keep his seat, while Councilman Dave Chase is not.

Despite agreeing on a goal for the city, the candidates' opinions differed on how to make Sun Valley competitive in the resort market.

Architect Barovetto repeatedly emphasized a need to make secluded Sun Valley more accessible and said a new airport is the "No. 1 priority." He also said the city needs to support Sun Valley Co. in its efforts to make a first-rate resort.

One audience member expressed concern for the "environmental implications" brought on by a new airport. Barovetto agreed that building an airport would have considerable effects on the natural environment, but that's unavoidable.

"We need to look into that," he said, "but we need an airport."

The other four candidates didn't bring up the airport on their own but did agree, when asked, that Sun Valley needs a voice in the new airport's planning.

Candidate and Sun Valley Co. nighttime front desk clerk Stephen Poindexter said the city must play a "major role" in the airport's planning.

"People that fly in here are coming to stay in Sun Valley," he said, "not Hailey or Bellevue."

Poindexter's main platform is that he'd like to see more businesses open after 10 p.m. He said that when he's working the graveyard shift, many hotel visitors ask him what's fun to do at night and all he can say is everything's closed.

"I'd like to see a little bit of growth in Sun Valley," he said. "But not a lot."

Concerning the planned airport, candidate Milt Adam said Sun Valley doesn't currently have a voice in the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority. The retired nuclear engineer said that needs to change.

Critics of the present Friedman Memorial Airport Authority have claimed that Blaine County and Hailey have not properly represented the interests of the north county in the new airport's planning.

Incumbent Ribi said that has changed with the creation of the Blaine County Airport Advisory Committee. In September, the County Commissioners approved a letter to be sent to mayors of the five Blaine County cities—Carey, Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley—asking them to create committees to nominate candidates for five seats on the airport advisory committee.

Candidate and retired physicist Bob Youngman said Sun Valley must make certain that its representative favors the new airport.

Youngman said Sun Valley's facing "pressure for growth." He said he's in favor of development and the city must work with developers while ensuring that open space is maintained. He said those spaces are what drew him here, and continue to do the same for others.

The issue of open space was also stated as a high priority for Ribi, who said Sun Valley needs to protect against hillside development and wildfires, the town's biggest threat.

On Tuesday, Ribi voted against a 12-home development to be built by DeNovo Independence on the hills above Elkhorn. At the forum, he said building houses there "makes no sense." When the other candidates were asked whether they'd approve the Denovo development, they all spoke against it except Poindexter. Adam said city limits shouldn't be "gerrymandered out to suit developers."

Adam said he doesn't have any grand plans if he's voted into office.

"I just want to maintain Sun Valley as a fine place to live," he said.

The final Politics and Pizza forum, for Hailey and Bellevue candidates, will be held Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the old Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

Trevon Milliard:

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.