Friday, August 13, 2004

Ketchum fosters light industry

After a year of debate, P&Z advances plan to council

Express Staff Writer

In an effort to curb the trend of blue-collar businesses moving to points south, Ketchum planners last summer proposed that the city overhaul the entire set of regulations governing its bustling?but changing?light-industrial zone.

The proposal came to fruition this week, when?after a year of discus-sion and debate?the Ketchum Plan-ning and Zoning Commission en-dorsed a lengthy set of amendments to the zoning code for two of the city?s three light-industrial districts.

With a unanimous 5-0 vote Mon-day, Aug. 9, P&Z commissioners ordered that a partial rewrite of the zoning regulations for the Light In-dustrial-1 and Light Industrial-2 dis-tricts be sent to the City Council for review and approval.

Ketchum?s three light-industrial zones?LI-1, LI-2 and LI-3?lie con-tiguous to each other in an area north of the city center between Highway 75 and Warm Springs Road.

The code changes proposed are designed to foster traditional light-industrial businesses, including those directly related to painting, mainte-nance, construction and low-impact manufacturing.

Although the city intended to draft new regulations that would encourage long-term employee housing in the LI zones, staff asked the P&Z to advance the proposal without widespread changes to housing policies, mainly because the code-revision process has dragged on for so long.

?We really kind of punted on the housing issue,? Planning Director Harold Moniz said Thursday. ?We just wanted to get the change of uses in front of the City Council.?

Moniz noted that the P&Z will be asked to revise the housing policies for the LI districts at a later date.

Planners at City Hall have main-tained that encouraging affordable housing in the upper levels of LI structures could enhance business and help to subsidize the extra expenses of holding an establishment in Ketchum, where real-estate costs have soared to new heights in recent years.

The proposed changes to permit-ted uses in the LI were essentially prompted by findings by city planners that changing costs and demographics have chased numerous light-industrial business operators to other cities, primarily Hailey.

As some light-industrial busi-nesses moved south because of esca-lating rents or commuting considera-tions, some non-industrial commer-cial operations have been gravitating to Ketchum?s LI zone, the planners said.

In a city report issued last sum-mer, contract planner Tory Canfield observed: ?In recent years, the LI district has seen less electrical-supply and plumbing businesses and more exercise studios and caterers.?

In a series of public hearings last year, some LI-district business own-ers and landowners told city officials that so-called ?fringe? light-industrial businesses were transforming the area into an extension of the commercial core. However, others expressed con-cerns that new restrictions might fur-ther erode the ability of businesses to succeed in the LI zone.

After debating at length the nu-ances of how to address the issue, the P&Z this week agreed on a proposal for the LI-1 and LI-2 zones that calls for:

Eliminating some permitted uses in the zones, including exercise and dance studios.

Adding some new uses, including auto-parts stores and recycling cen-ters.

Implementing revised rules for wholesale and retail sales in the area, with the goal of keeping traffic gener-ated by tourists and the general public to a minimum.

Restricting office uses.

Commissioners considered re-stricting office uses to those only related to research and development, but ultimately decided to strike the language. The decision was made primarily to allow businesses such as Scott USA?the sporting goods dis-tributor that has a new building in the LI?to move into the area.

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