Friday, January 7, 2011

Looking into the LI and grocery

Ketchum to take a long, hard look at future of light-industrial area


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum is following through on its promise to take a long, hard look at its light-industrial area—a 61-acre northern corner of town that has attracted heated debate during the past year due to a grocer's wanting to open a 31,000-square-foot supermarket there.

Even though grocer Vern Howard's proposed zoning change—withdrawn for now—would only allow "grocery stores" in the LI, many have argued in city meeting after city meeting that it would be the beginning of retail stores' migrating away from downtown, creating a satellite retail core and putting an end to the downtown foot traffic that the city has worked hard to create. This group wants grocery stores only in the downtown, where Atkinsons' Market and soon-to-open Roxy's Market sit.

However, others argue this fear is exaggerated, asserting that downtown is too cramped to provide a full-size grocery store and ample parking, which is a necessity for grocery shopping because a vehicle is needed.

Howard and his proposed store, Ketchum Market, inadvertently brought this LI issue to the forefront and have been caught in the middle ever since. But Howard withdrew his zoning change a month ago, waiting for the city to decide its future for the LI in general, before he reapplies.

City officials hope to decide questions such as: Is there even demand for traditional LI businesses, such as manufacturing and auto-repair shops? Do other similar cities allow grocery and nontraditional LI businesses in their LI areas? And would a grocery store impact the downtown?

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The city is attempting to answer these questions separate from the Ketchum Market debate, requesting proposals from experienced land-use planning firms by Jan. 18. The winning firm will conduct an in-depth analysis of Ketchum's three light-industrial areas, looking at their existing economic conditions, interviewing current LI landowners to learn their perspectives and examining LI trends for other cities. The firm would then make recommendations for LI land-use modifications.

Ketchum's LI zones were created in 1984, with later modifications to allow day care and housing in specified areas.

The firm will also estimate the amount of grocery business lost by people driving to Hailey or Twin Falls. Town residents and supporters of the proposed Ketchum Market have said they drive south for cheaper groceries and have argued that a full-size supermarket in town competing with Atkinsons' Market would likely change their habits.

The city's Community and Economic Development Department will review the firms' proposals, with the mayor and city council picking a firm by the end of January or early February.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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