Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3 houses proposed for Knob Hill

Application calls for 22 percent-grade, heated, covered road

Express Staff Writer

The three white poles, upper right, represent the center points of three houses that a developer wants to build on Ketchumís Knob Hill above Walnut Avenue. The poles stand as tall as the housesí highest points. The City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission took a site visit on Nov. 15 to get a feel for the lay of the land before reviewing the application. Photo by Rebecca Bundy

Ketchum's city leaders struggled to keep their traction while hiking the same route straight up Knob Hill that a developer wants to follow for building a 22 percent-grade road.

The road is needed to reach the sites of three proposed houses that would be built across the Ketchum-facing side of the barren hill. The City Council, Planning and Zoning Commission, and city staff visited the site on Nov. 15 to walk the land they'd be considering for development. The developer needs several waivers to be allowed to build.

The council will first be considering the road—which would extend perpendicular from Walnut Avenue near Ninth Street—at its Dec. 6 meeting. The road would be twice the legal limit of 11 percent grade for private roads. If the city deems it a public road because it accesses multiple lots, the road would be three times the legal limit of 7 percent grade. To provide some perspective on this grade, Ketchum Associate Planner Rebecca Bundy said the town's steepest road is Fifth Street next to Formula Sports, at 15 percent grade, constructed before the 7 percent limit was in place.


The proposed road would also be 6 feet short of the required public-road width. Because of the road's steep grade, the developer is proposing it be not only heated but also covered along its entire ascent, ending 41 feet higher in elevation than Eighth Street. The cover wouldn't be open like a covered bridge but would have two cement walls running its entire length, like an above-ground tunnel.

The road is just the beginning.

"There will be all sorts of mountain overlay issues," Bundy said.

The land sits within the Mountain Overlay District and the houses wouldn't "skyline," meaning visually break Knob Hill's ridge when looking upward from town. However, the city's leaders discovered Nov. 15 when standing in the Ketchum Cemetery parking lot that the houses would clearly be visible when entering town from the north. And the city's rule says that the visual impact should be minimized.

Bundy said the houses themselves are small, each totaling about 2,000 square feet and beneath the height limit.

The council and P&Z didn't make any comments or deliberate about the project's feasibility during the Dec. 15 site visit.

Trevon Milliard:

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