Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Simplot plan inches forward

P&Z raises questions about sidewalks, housing and parking

Express Staff Writer

Should the city give up some 33,000 feet of public land in exchange for 10,000 square feet of community housing and access to a variety of urban amenities?

That is the question evolving from discussions among the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission over a plan to subdivide and develop the Simplot Lot?downtown Ketchum?s largest vacant land parcel.

P&Z commissioners on Monday, Aug. 9, conducted their second for-mal review of a proposed master de-velopment plan for the 3.8-acre Sim-plot Lot, located immediately west of the Ketchum Post Office.

Commissioners expressed general support for the plan but indicated they are concerned about a lack of details regarding the construction of commu-nity housing, sidewalks and a 136-stall parking garage.

Commission Chairman Greg Strong said he is very concerned that the developers are not proposing a schedule to complete the project.

?It seems to me like you guys are asking for an awful lot of flexibility,? Strong said. ?I?d sure hate to go out there and see 25 percent of this built and stay that way.?

Architect Jim Ruscitto and real-estate broker Dick Fenton?who rep-resent the property?s owners, Gay and Scott Simplot?in May submitted a proposed development agreement that strictly limits the building envelopes and uses on the entire site.

However, the representatives have said the landowners have not deter-mined if they will develop the site themselves, pursue a joint venture or sell the subdivided parcels and asso-ciated plans to individual developers.

In what is turning out to be the most controversial aspect of the plan, the applicants have asked the city to vacate two platted, undeveloped roadways on the parcel, including a portion of Fifth Street. As proposed, the plan calls for the Simplots to take control of approximately 33,000 square feet of public rights of way.

Other aspects of the proposed development plan include:

 Permitting development of the west half of the property with no more than 30 duplex housing units.

 Developing three large Tourist-zoned lots and two public parks on the eastern half of the property.

 Installing a 136-stall public parking garage and transit stop across from the post office.

 Rerouting an existing public bike path through the site.

 Closing the section of Third Ave-nue that borders the parcel on the west side.

Fenton said the owners have agreed to include 10,000 square feet of deed-restricted community housing in the project but have not determined exactly how many units would be built.

Commissioner Anne Corrock expressed concern that the developers are not offering enough in return for their proposal to assume ownership of the two public roadways, which cover about 25 percent of the site.

Fenton argued that the Simplots have developed the plan in a manner that merely allows them to ?come out even? and cannot make additional concessions to benefit the public.

Attorney Evan Robertson, repre-senting the developers, said: ?Our feeling is we?re giving up a lot.?

Commissioner Jack Rutherford agreed with Strong, noting that he wants the city to pursue a ?phased construction agreement? that would call for certain aspects of the project to be built according to a schedule.

The development team repeatedly noted that the debate is a Catch-22 of sorts: The city wants assurances that the project?or at least aspects of it?will be completed in a timely manner, while the developer cannot proceed with determining how the work will proceed until a plan is approved.

The P&Z will resume its review of the plan on Sept. 13.

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