Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pursuit of the cheap pork chop

Ketchum city officials have apparently been driven so mad by visions of cheap pork chops and 10-for-a-dollar sales that they are contradicting themselves, torturing city ordinances and advocating chopping the commercial core in half to fulfill a beknighted quest.

Key Planning and Zoning Commission members are convinced that multiple grocery stores within city boundaries will magically reduce food prices. They've failed to notice that the presence of grocery chain stores in the Wood River Valley and big box stores in Twin Falls has never driven down prices significantly.

There's a reason for that, and it's not lack of competition. Ketchum is three hours away from the nearest grocery warehouse, has no rail service, lies on the edge of a major wilderness area and has a seasonal visitor-based economy. This drives prices.

Expensive land and rents and employees who can't live on peanuts also drive up prices at all businesses in the valley.

Yet, the city's quest goes on. Just a couple of weeks after the P&Z and the City Council agreed that grocery stores should be allowed outright only in the commercial core, the P&Z began feverishly trying to crack open the Light Industrial zone by creating special permits for them.

What's next? Cracking open the LI for bars because of the idea that beer would get cheaper if it were served over bins of drill bits and 6-penny nails?

Decades of planners have told the city it needs a lively and concentrated downtown to attract shoppers. This is no time to let champagne tastes, beer budgets and the pursuit of the cheap pork chop bust up Ketchum's core.

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