Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Council grants extension for Hotel Ketchum

Mayor says hotels are key to city’s future


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

Plans for the proposed Hotel Ketchum were approved by the city in 2008. Courtesy graphic

The Ketchum City Council voted Monday to grant developer Jack Bariteau a one-year extension to build his proposed Hotel Ketchum.

The 73-room luxury hotel, to be built at the Trail Creek Village site on Main and River streets in Ketchum, was approved by the city in 2008. Approval of four other major hotel projects followed shortly thereafter. Under a planned-unit development agreement, Hotel Ketchum was to be completed by Oct. 6, 2012, with the possibility of a one-year extension.

Bariteau, eager for Hotel Ketchum to be the first of the approved hotels to open its doors, originally anticipated a 2011 completion date. Then the economy went bust.

On Monday, July 2, Bariteau told the City Council that the loan for the purchase of the Trail Creek Village property was taken out with First Bank of Idaho in Ketchum. In 2009, First Bank of Idaho was closed by the federal Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was named receiver. That pushed the expected completion date back a year, to 2012.

Bariteau told the council that since the closure of First Bank of Idaho, "the loan has changed hands four times." He said that significantly delayed his ability to break ground on the project.

The purpose of project completion deadlines in development agreements is to ensure that the city doesn't have a bunch of half-built monstrosities marring the skyline. On the other hand, the city doesn't want the Hotel Ketchum project to go belly-up.

"This project, if it were built, would be very successful in the current market," Mayor Randy Hall said, "It can't be a resort town if there aren't hotels."

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Several citizens attending the meeting said they want to see this project done and are unhappy with the aesthetics of the partly empty Trail Creek Village, one of the first sights visitors see as they drive into Ketchum from the south.

"We don't want you to be in this position and we know you don't want to be in this position," Hall said. "But ... this can't go on forever. Otherwise the ordinance [for a time limit] has no meaning."

"I know the council is getting itchy, especially with four other hotel projects all getting delayed."

The council approved the extension so long as Bariteau agreed to give Trail Creek Village a facelift. The Fire Department recently listed the white tent attached to the old Baci restaurant building as a fire hazard. The council strongly recommended to Bariteau that the tent be removed. Council members also asked him to plant some flowers.

However, Hall added, "I think it's important to acknowledge your efforts as one of the largest landlords in town. I want to thank you for working hard with your tenants so that there aren't 'For rent' signs in the windows of all your buildings in town."

Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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