Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Green light for McHanville zoning

New incentives for community housing in place after long process

Express Staff Writer

It took two and a half years of meetings and analysis, but Blaine County has finally approved a new zoning ordinance for the McHanville and "south gateway" areas.

At a meeting Tuesday at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey, the county commissioners engaged in a brief discussion before unanimously voting in favor of the ordinance, which applies to the 90-acre area of partly developed land south of Ketchum. The ordinance includes incentives for the creation of affordable housing.

"I think we've accomplished what we set out to do," Commission Chairman Larry Schoen said. "But the proof will be in the pudding with its adoption by the development community and property owners in that area."

Under the ordinance, the area has been broken into zones, some allowing commercial and residential uses, others just residential and some allowing residential and light-industrial development.

Previous zoning allowed developers to exceed allowed density—one unit per acre in most of the area—to 10 units with the inclusion of community housing. The new ordinance increases that to 15, with the stipulation that 15 to 20 percent of the units, depending on zone, be community housing, either for sale or for rent.

One of the most contentious issues involved in developing the new ordinance was whether St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center should be exempt from the community housing requirement. At a meeting in late September, the commissioners decided that it would not be.

Under previous zoning, many businesses in the area were non-conforming to their zones, and therefore unable to legally expand. Adoption of the new ordinance will allow those businesses to expand. Existing businesses are granted the increased density allowance without a requirement to provide community housing for expansions of 15 percent or less.

In an interview, county Regional Planner Jeff Adams said the new zoning could lead to construction of 600 to 800 housing units, with about 100 dedicated to community housing.

"This increases the economic opportunities for redevelopment in this zone and I hope it will spur the development of affordable housing on the doorstep of Ketchum and Sun Valley," Schoen said. "And, hopefully, owners of non-conforming units, which are now conforming, have been saving their money for this day."

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