Wednesday, September 22, 2010

River Run contract reached

City approves annexation and development agreement

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy graphic. This 19-acre area on the east bank of Big Wood River will be the hotel and retail core of Sun Valley Resort’s 138-acre River Run base village. Draft plans include general outlines of where buildings would go but not specific building designs. River Run contract reached

It has been five months since the Ketchum City Council voted to annex 138 acres of Sun Valley Resort land into the city for a River Run base village, but the decision wasn't final until Sept. 16.

That was when the council and resort agreed on detailed terms of the 42-page annexation and development agreement, which took the city's and resort's attorneys since late April to draft. The planned development—slated to be built in phases over the next 15-20 years—includes a 110-foot luxury hotel, retail space, a plaza, parking garages and housing at the base of Bald Mountain.

"Whenever you're doing a contract like this, it does take more time," said the city's attorney, Susan Buxton, pointing to the terms reached for the more litigious items, such as the services of the health and wellness center, limited to 50,000 square feet.

The contract allows the base village to have rehabilitation clinics and sports-training facilities but not inpatient or outpatient surgical facilities that may take business from St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

"We don't want to do anything to compromise the hospital," Mayor Randy Hall said during a City Council meeting on Sept. 16.

For that reason, a footnote of the contract states that if the resort and area hospital "come to a written agreement regarding the health and wellness uses that exceed the definition ... the City Council may waive all or part of the ... limitations."

Becky Zimmerman, the resort's development consultant, said this footnote is not fair in the eyes of Wally Huffman, Sun Valley's director of resort development, who couldn't be at the meeting. However, she said, Huffman was not willing to "derail" the contract because of this one issue, but wanted his feelings on the record.

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The resort was given one exception: medical day spas.

"An older term would be plastic surgery. Medical day spa sounds so much better, doesn't it?" Zimmerman said lightheartedly.

She said this service is seeing a boom at resorts because patients can spend the following days recovering at the resort.

A St. Luke's representative at the meeting said the terms are "acceptable."

Most conditions of the development agreement were consistent with verbal agreements made in council meetings. However, the issue of water use was one large issue left up in the air during deliberations early this year.

The resort will be responsible for building a new municipal well capable of discharging 750 gallons per minute.

Councilwoman Nina Jonas, the only dissenting vote concerning the contract, expressed concern over excessive water use.

Resort attorney Evan Robertson said 750 gallons per minute is just the capability, not the constant rate of use. Plus, he said, the well would be a free asset to the city and would not belong to developers.

No other council members shared Jonas' concern. And that was the greatest extent to the city's discomfort with the contract, which Hall called "once in a lifetime."

"We are, at this moment, annexing a piece of property that I've been driving by for 40 years," Hall said. "Always wondered. Well, now we know."

Trevon Milliard:

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