A partnership between the Ketchum Community Development Corp. and GMD Development, which is seeking to develop an affordable-housing project in Ketchum, now will have to compete with other potential applicants for the project.
Rather than giving the partnership exclusive rights to pursue the proposed Washington Place project for two years, as previously discussed, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency Tuesday opted to open development to other bidders, possibly next month.
"It's just a step that the URA needs to take," Jon Duval, CDC executive director, said in an interview. "We've come a long way in the design. The plans we have are strong. I'm hoping we continue on the path we've already started."
The URA wants to move forward with an affordable-housing project at 211 E. First St., at the corner of Washington Avenue. The CDC and GMD, along with Williams Partners Architects, had submitted preliminary designs for their proposed 23-unit project to the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission earlier this year. They had asked for exclusive rights to pursue the development for two years to allow time to seek federal low-income-housing tax credits for the project.
The project also hit another bump recently. A group of Ketchum residents and property owners are taking issue with aspects of the project and how it is being pursued—and they have hired an attorney to state their case.
Attorney Martin Flannes is representing the Commercial Core Coalition. The group, whose stated mission is to promote the vitality of the commercial core, counts property tenants, owners and managers as members, according to a letter submitted by Flannes to URA board Chair Randy Hall.
"Approving the Option to Lease (the exclusive agreement) would be extremely inappropriate and premature at this time and inconsistent with Idaho law and the Ketchum Urban Renewal Plan," the June 9 letter reads.
The letter also contends that the selection of the CDC/GMD partnership should have been open to other bids through a request-for-proposal process, that the "shocking" terms proposed for the developer "constitute a gift," that parking is inadequate, and that the URA intends to allow increased density based on an application of city code that was ruled invalid by the Idaho Supreme Court last year.
The opening of the RFP process was a good first step, Flannes said.
"We were pleased it agreed to follow that process," he told the Idaho Mountain Express Thursday. "We will be very interested in seeing what the RFP says. Whatever the terms are, it's important they include fair-market value."
Flannes said the terms offered to the CDC/GMD partnership should have required a fee payment during the two years that it had an exclusive option. Terms also should include fair-market value rates for the duration of the lease once the site is developed, he said.
"We are merely asking (the URA) to follow its own plan and its own rules," he said.
Flannes' clients are taking a wait-and-see approach before deciding what other action they might take.
URA Attorney Stephanie Bonney did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.
The URA-owned property on which the affordable housing project may be built has a main building—formerly a consignment store—and two smaller structures. Ketchum's previous building official determined that the main building was unfit for year-round occupancy because it could not handle heavy snow loads.
The URA board decided Tuesday to wait until after Labor Day to demolish the site's structures. Demolition could not be completed before the Fourth of July, and the work could create problems for the neighborhood as visitors arrive for the busy holiday weekend, said Lisa Horowitz, the URA's community and economic development director.
"It would be too disruptive to the surrounding businesses," she said in an interview.
The council granted a request by the Ketchum Fire Department to conduct training exercises in the building in the meantime. Smoke may been seen coming from the building during those exercises, said Fire Chief Mike Elle.
The URA will pay approximately $2,000 for an asbestos test, and more if abatement is required. That test would have to be completed whether or not the site is used for fire drills, Elle said.
The URA also will pay for minor improvements to the site and general upkeep over the summer.
"It really does not look good," said Juerg Stauffacher, Ketchum's parks and recreation superintendent. He said repairs to the fence could be made for under $1,000, with another $1,300 for landscape maintenance.
Demolition of the three buildings and fence could cost approximately $9,700. Bids will be solicited later this summer.
One of the buildings may be offered to the public.
"We've had a couple of inquiries," Horowitz said. The URA may take bids on the building's removal in late summer.
"We'd just put it out there to the community," she said.
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