Wednesday, May 25, 2011

P&Z: Office use OK for retail site

Commissioners feel forced into decision by city’s form-based code


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Despite being opposed to office space in the retail core, Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commissioners voted 3-1 to recommend that the building formerly housing the Bobbie Burns retail store be approved for office space. The vote didn't happen without emotional discussion about what is right for the city's retail core and whether Ketchum's form-based code supports the city's intent for that area.

Seattle-based homebuilder Schuchart/Dow is applying for a conditional-use permit for the building on Sun Valley Road near the corner of Main Street. The city's form-based code requires a conditional-use permit for first-floor office space in that area of the community core.

"It's historic, it's charming, it suits our needs perfect," said Matt Hall, a Schuchart/Dow employee and Ketchum native who hopes to have his office at the site. "It will be a locally populated (office)."

Commissioners Deborah Burns, Michael Doty and Steve Cook voted in favor of the recommendation. Commissioner Rich Fabiano voted against it. Sam Williams was not in attendance.

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The criteria for a conditional-use permit are listed in the form-based code.

"I have to agree ... that it fulfills the criteria for a conditional-use permit," said Burns, who also is a Ketchum retailer. But, she said, "it's a hard one for me."

Burns later said she voted to recommend approval because she felt the building's sale would be stalled without the conditional-use permit. The Bobbie Burns store closed after many years in business, and the building is currently for sale.

Fabiano spoke against ground-floor office space in the retail core, and implored city leaders to not use the poor economy as "an excuse" for such decisions.

"Once we start giving up retail space, we start shutting our doors," he said. "There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We've got to put that dark side behind us and move forward."

Planning Manager Joyce Allgaier agreed that as a "qualitative judgment," retail would be the preferred use for that site, but "we're supporting the application because it meets the criteria."

Commissioners and city staff discussed a rewrite of the form-based code, which focuses primarily on appearance rather than type of use.

Allgaier said the city has a list of code amendments that may be addressed. Recommended changes would have to go through the City Council before being adopted.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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