Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Housing plans hiccups at P&Z

P&Z tells CDC to ‘think outside the box’

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum Community Development Corp. is planning to build an affordable-housing building at this city-owned parking lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue. Plans are still preliminary but call for keeping the ground-level parking and constructing the building over it. Photo by David N. Seelig

Jon Duval, executive director of the Ketchum Community Development Corp., expected united support for a zoning amendment allowing his nonprofit to build an affordable-housing building in Ketchum's retail core.

However, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously sided against the zoning amendment at its Monday meeting, upholding the requirement that all downtown buildings must have retail on street-facing ground floors. The decision isn't final but is a recommendation to the City Council, which can still pass the zoning amendment.

Duval had planned on getting around the requirement by drafting an amendment giving exception for buildings consisting entirely of affordable housing, excluding parking.

The CDC plans to build an affordable housing building atop the 0.25-acre, city-owned parking lot at the corner of Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue. Duval said three floors—starting at Leadville Avenue's higher elevation—would cover the ground-level parking lot. More parking, accessible from Leadville Avenue, would dominate the first floor, as well as 26-30 housing units from there up.

Duval said the building must be entirely for-rent affordable housing to use federal-tax credits to cover construction costs, the same as Northwood Place, which is almost finished near the Wood River Community YMCA.

The P&Z told Duval to talk to other developers besides its project partner, Vitus, to see if it's possible to receive federal tax credits for the building's affordable housing and finance ground-floor retail another way.

"You have to think outside the box a little," Commissioner Sam Williams said. "You have to be able to make it work if land costs are zero."

Commissioner Steve Cook said he felt "deep uneasiness" about the amendment.

"It's too much of a blanket amendment," he said. "The unintended consequences aren't clear."

Commissioner Michael Doty was of the same opinion, also cautioning against a "blanket amendment."

But Ketchum Associate Planner Rebecca Bundy pointed out that the amendment would allow the city to decide when it permits the exception on a case-by-case basis. She said that just because a building is entirely affordable housing wouldn't give it an automatic right to be constructed.

The P&Z decided that even though the city's comprehensive and downtown master plans express a goal of providing affordable housing, the downtown master plan also advises adding retail shops in the downtown core.

Plus, other options are possible for the CDC.

The city owns another site that the council has considered for affordable housing. The location of that land already allows residential uses on the street front. The property takes up half a city block along Washington Street between First and Second streets.

The CDC considered this site but said construction would become too expensive there because a vehicle ramp would need to be built to extend from the ground level to second-floor parking. The Sixth Street and Leadville Avenue site, on the other hand, is sloped, allowing entry to the second-floor parking by way of the equally elevated street.

Monday's discussion ended with Commissioner Rich Fabiano telling Duval he hopes the CDC comes back with other options to build the housing.

"Our mission hasn't changed," Duval said.

Trevon Milliard:

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