Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Grocery proposal splits Ketchum down middle

Zoning change would allow grocery stores in LI

Express Staff Writer

Even the extra rows of seats added to meet the expected masses weren't enough. People stood in the back, along the walls and even outside, only able to hear the discourse dribbling into the foyer at Ketchum City Hall on Monday night. Despite the inordinately large number of people, the developer of the proposed Ketchum Market didn't have many friends in the room, at least not many who spoke up.

Of the more than 70 community members in attendance for the Ketchum City Council meeting, 23 spoke in opposition to a zoning change that would allow grocery stores in the city's largest light-industrial area, while nine were in favor.

The issue isn't whether to specifically allow Ketchum Market. However, the market—planned for the former Stock Building Supply site on Warm Springs Road—is the only grocery store proposed in the LI zone, which spans north to south from Saddle Road to Tenth Street and east to west from state Highway 75 to a little west of Lewis Street.

Plus, the city didn't propose the zoning change. Ketchum Market developer Valmark suggested it. Without it, Ketchum Market couldn't be built.

The proposed amendment wouldn't automatically permit grocery stores—as is the case in the community core—but would allow them conditionally, meaning the city can permit or deny grocery stores on a case-by-case basis regardless of whether they meet zoning requirements. The city could also make additional requirements.

The proposed amendment states that to be considered for conditional approval, the business must meet the city's definition of a grocery store—a definition that the city is currently drafting. This limitation is meant to exclude other retail business from creeping into the light-industrial area. The store must employ at least 25 full-time-equivalent employees and provide affordable housing equal to 20 percent of the gross floor area.

The city's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended—in a 3-1 vote on Sept. 27—that the council approve the zoning change after hearing overwhelming testimony favoring it. Thirteen people testified in favor of grocery stores in the LI and four people against.

The most testimony has come in the form of 40 letters and e-mails to the city, the senders split nearly in half over the issue.

"It really makes me sad when I see the community divided," said resident Neil Bradshaw on Monday evening.

Bradshaw has argued since the amendment was first presented to the P&Z last spring that it would go against the city's 2001 comprehensive plan and take people away from the community core and Atkinsons' Market, where foot traffic is essential for retail shops. He argued it would also push traditional LI uses out of the LI zone.

"Put community ahead of convenience," he advocated.

Most amendment opponents made similar arguments, but proponents argued that something like Ketchum Market wouldn't take business away from Atkinsons' Market and other stores in the downtown core. They say it would capture those residents currently going to Hailey and Twin Falls to shop in a less congested market with ample parking.

"They can go to Twin for that," said a woman wanting to protect Ketchum's small-town feel. "They can move to Twin for that."

After hearing the wave of testimony, the council decided not to acknowledge the hearing as the "first reading" of three necessary to vote on the amendment.

"I need time to digest everything I heard tonight," said Councilman Baird Gourlay.

The council will return to the topic on Monday, Nov. 1.

Trevon Milliard:

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