Friday, December 4, 2009

Bald Mountain Lodge plan remains in limbo

Building’s size prompts concerns among some P&Z members

The city of Ketchum is reviewing plans for the proposed Bald Mountain Lodge.Courtesy graphic

Concern over the height of the proposed five-story Bald Mountain Lodge in downtown Ketchum resulted in postponement of a vote on the project by the Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday.

At a proposed 68 feet, the hotel's height is right at the city's permitted maximum and would be the tallest building in Ketchum's core. It would be located on a city block along Main Street between First and River streets. The adjacent US Bank building, on Main Street to the north, is 44 feet tall.

Though the proposed height is within the permitted maximum, construction of any building over 48 feet is at the discretion of the city. Furthermore, all new hotel projects in Ketchum are required to be submitted as planned-unit developments, which require conditional-use permits.

Commissioners Rich Fabiano and Steve Cook said at the conclusion of the four-and-a-half-hour meeting that this building must not be rushed through the permitting process. Though they didn't object to the height itself, they said they wanted to ensure that the building's design did not overwhelm its neighbors.

Another meeting was scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 3, both on approval of the conditional-use permit and to rule on the project's design. However, Fabiano said he may not be comfortable voting Thursday.

"If it takes three meetings, it takes three meetings," he said. "It won't be rushed through."

Cook replied by saying, "I'm with you, Rich. This is monumental."


Project manager Jim Garrison made it clear that he wasn't happy with the notion of extending the two-day, nine-hour process even longer.

"It's been a year," he said. "This isn't being rushed through."

Garrison announced the current proposal for a new, high-profile hotel on the site in mid-January and has been progressing through city hearings since then.

"It's tough being first," Fabiano acknowledged. "It's going to be an eye opener in town, just the size of it."

The design envisions a project of 231,400 square feet, including two underground levels offering 116 parking stalls and other uses, including a spa, ballroom and conference room. The three floors starting at ground level would be used for the hotel, with 87 rooms, retail space, a lobby and a restaurant. The top two levels would be set back and would offer 26 residential units.

At the Washington Avenue side, there would be a raised outdoor pool and patio for only hotel guests that would stop at the avenue's intersection of River Street.

But developers have yet to offer any plan for providing 22 units of workforce housing, which the city requires. The city arrived at that number based on the reasoning of one employee needed per hotel room, and developers having to provide housing for 25 percent of those employees. That equates to 22 workforce units required, on or off site.

If Bald Mountain Lodge is recommended for approval by the P&Z, it will still need to be approved by the City Council. The project's developers have stated a construction time of 22 months.

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