For the week of July 15 thru July 21, 1998  

Civility prevails at housing hearing

Public hearing on the Warm Springs development is calm, not contentious

Express Staff Writer

15dale.gif (13717 bytes)Project architect Dale Bates discusses plans for a housing development in Warm Springs. (Express photo by Kathryn Beaumont)

Andy and Alice Schernthanner bought their 26 acres along Warm Springs Road in 1966.

Alice Schernthanner said she would love to have her horses running on it for the rest of her life.

"But it’s not going to happen," she said. "We’re too old."

At some point, she said, the property will be sold.

"I would love to have a plan for all of you," she told those who attended Monday’s public hearing at Ketchum City Hall on a high-density housing development planned for a portion of her property.

Schernthanner’s concern is that the people who live on the 2.2 acres currently being considered for the Fields at Warm Springs development work in Ketchum and send their kids to the local schools.

"I don’t doubt that we would like to make some money on this--we cannot afford to hold on to it," Alice said. "At some point we’ll subdivide it and move out and the millionaires will move in. But I’m not sure that’s the way it should happen."

How it should happen was the subject of Monday night’s Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing on the revised plans for the development.

And in contrast to the last time the project came up for discussion in March, the atmosphere was productive--almost dignified.

The latest proposal calls for a 44-unit development, with 17 units set aside as affordable housing. The developers, Sawtooth Development of Seattle, have said they would sell the affordable units for $135,000. The other 27 units would be sold at market rate.

This time around, residents were more vocal in support of the project, both citing the need for affordable housing and commending architect Dale Bates’ redesign of the project.

Those who opposed the plans spoke not in terms of affordable housing, but rather, in terms of density.

Normally, the minimum acreage for a project of this size would be three acres. Under the city’s planned unit development ordinance, the developers are asking to build the project on 2.2 acres in exchange for the 17 affordable housing units.

The redesigned project features seven buildings and a central community area. The community area is about 9 percent of the total lot area and will have a club house, a barbecue area, a hot tub and a community garden.

Supporters of the project mixed the call for affordable housing with pleas for the P&Z to take a stand on the issue.

"I want to live here for the rest of my life," said Christy McPherson, a local accountant. "I’m a single female. I could rent forever, but I don’t want to. I really want to buy something, but it’s just not possible for people to own anything."

Martin Kaplan, a local architect, called the revisions a good compromise.

"In many places of the world, $135,000 is not exactly affordable. In this part of the world, it’s a gift," he said.

Still, the overall density of the project and the lack of a master plan for the remaining 25 acres of surrounding land sparked some opposition.

"It’s a little irritating to be told that 54 to 44 units is a compromise when the lot is zoned for 20," said Bill Glenn. "This is not an affordable housing issue. It’s a zoning issue."

P&Z member Rod Sievers said he was concerned with the potential future use of the whole area.

"I am 100 percent in favor of the project, but it ought to be on four or five acres," Sievers said. "I truly believe that for the benefit of the community, the whole area needs to be master planned with open space for the community. I’m looking at it from a long-range perspective."

Siever’s previous opposition to the development--before he was appointed to the planning and zoning commission--caused former P&Z and city council member Pam Ritzau to question his impartiality.

Sievers stated that legally he had no conflict of interest with the developers.

"I have no financial interest," he said. "I’m no different from any other homeowner in Ketchum. My viewpoint is that a strong, attractive feature is 17 affordable units, and I’d like to find a way to make it work. My problem is that the 27 other units are on 2.2 acres.

"This is a new proposal. I’ll look at it objectively for what’s best for Ketchum," he said.

The four other P&Z members were in favor of the redesign, although they expressed concern about the setbacks from Warm Springs Road and the plans for snow removal.

"I’m thoroughly behind this, and I would like to do everything I can to make it go forward," said P&Z member Susan Scovell. "I’m really discouraged about the setbacks off Warm Springs Road, but I feel we can work with that."

The setbacks on Warm Springs Road are 17 feet. Under city ordinances, all front lots on Warm Springs Road must have a 30-foot setback.

The front lot line of the Fields at Warm Springs is on Flower Drive, not on Warm Springs Road. Therefore, the setback from Warm Springs Road need only be half the height of the buildings--or about 17 feet.

P&Z members and residents said this width was too narrow for the bike, pedestrian and car traffic along the busy artery.

Bates said he would work on the setbacks issue before the next P&Z meeting.

The plans for snow removal also will be reworked, Bates said. As it stands now, all snow would be removed by a private contractor. Residents and the P&Z expressed concern that these costs might place an additional financial burden on those who live in the affordable units.

The hearing on the planned unit development request was postponed until July 27, when the application for the subdivision and design review of the project will also be considered by the P&Z.

Bates, for one, is optimistic.

"This is the first meeting I’ve been to in forever where people are coming forward for a project instead of opposed to a project," he said. "It’s up to design review to make this the best project they can for the community, and we’ll work with them."


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