Friday, December 14, 2012

P&Z: ARCH project needs redesign

Affordable housing proposed for Bird Drive site

Express Staff Writer

Courtesy graphic This image demonstrates what the Evergreen Apartments on Bird Drive in southwest Ketchum might look like if remodeled and expanded by ARCH for affordable housing.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission has asked ARCH Community Housing Trust to rework the design for a proposed remodel and expansion of the Evergreen Apartments on Bird Drive in southwest Ketchum to include more parking and more open space.

The commissioners—and the apartment complex’s neighbors—recommended the changes during a pre-application design-review meeting about the affordable housing project Monday. Commission Co-Chair Deborah Burns suggested that ARCH participate in a second pre-application discussion after updating the design and before submitting a formal application for the project to the commission.

ARCH, which stands for Advocates for Real Community Housing, is a nonprofit organization that uses donations and federal matching funds to develop affordable housing for people of low to moderate income

“It was a really respectful, peaceful meeting, I thought,” said ARCH Executive Director Michelle Griffith. “Clearly, the neighbors would like some more parking and the commissioners would as well. We’ll try to figure out how to make that happen.”

Griffith said she’s asked the project’s architect to see what he can come up with.

Currently, the Evergreen Apartments contain nine one-bedroom rental units. ARCH plans to expand that to 17 by adding a three-bedroom unit and seven two-bedroom units. The current design proposes 15 parking spaces, which in an interview after the meeting Planning Manager Joyce Allagier said is two more than the code requirement for that number of housing units in that zone. However, Allgaier said the project—since it’s an apartment housing project—is subject to an Apartment Housing Overlay code that supersedes the underlying zoning code and requires more parking for apartment buildings. She said the overlay requires 21 spaces for the proposed design. At the meeting, the commission suggested the design incorporate more parking spaces.

However, Allgaier also said that based on the Planning Department’s research as of press deadline Thursday, the overlay has never been applied to any other project. She said the issue was brought to the department’s attention by an attorney Gary Slette, who is representing the project’s neighbors. Griffith said ARCH was not aware of the additional code when it drafted its design.

The commissioners—and several members of the public—also said the project doesn’t have enough open space. Commissioner Michael Doty said he’s going to have “a hard time” thinking of a proposed roof garden deck as open space for the project. He said he considers open space to be generally on the ground floor. Commissioners Steve Cook and Jeff Lamoureux agreed, though Lamoureaux added that he might be inclined to count the deck as open space since it would be “open to the sky.”

“The open space discussion was a little disappointing,” Griffith said. “If you read the code, you could just shrink the footprint of the building and create open strips of land that wouldn’t be useful to anybody. I think the open roof deck would be more useful, especially with some nice plants and flowers.”

Slette, representing the West Ketchum Community Coalition, a group of about 100 property owners opposed to the project, said the project is a “laudable goal” on ARCH’s part, but as proposed is not the best thing for the community.

“Why would you ever approve a housing project that has fewer parking spaces than proposed dwelling units?” he asked. “I think it’s just trying to put the square peg in the round hole.”

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia called the neighbors “paranoid.”

“They like telling these people, ‘You don’t belong in our neighborhood,’” he said.

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