For the week of December 16 thru December 22, 1998  

Ketchum considers preservation of historic buildings

Unused ordinance still on the books

Express Staff Writer

louies.jpg (15503 bytes)Louie’s pizza restaurant on Leadville Avenue in Ketchum is another example a historic site. (Express photos by Charmaine McCann)

The Ketchum City Council will consider reactivating a little-used ordinance Monday night that would help the city preserve its historical sites.

Passed in 1989, the historic-preservation ordinance permits the city to form a commission to advise it on methods of preserving historical buildings.

The ordinance authorizes such a commission to recommend methods of preserving, restoring, maintaining and operating historic properties under the ownership or control of the city. It also enables the commission to recommend the acquisition of historic properties, to conduct a survey of local historic properties and promote and conduct educational programs on historic preservation and local historic properties.

According to Ketchum planner Stacy Matz, who played a pivotal role in maintaining and revising Pocatello’s historic preservation program, Ketchum’s commission was formed under the ordinance but had little impact. The commission’s existence and the ordinance’s use have since waned.

Also, she said, Ketchum’s involvement in a program called Certified Local Government has expired. That program makes cities eligible for National Park Service grants that can be channeled toward historic preservation projects.

Historic preservation is an important facet of a town’s character, Matz said.

"It’s a resource that you can’t replace," she said. "Ketchum might not have a lot of historically valuable buildings left, but if we like the way they look, we should try to perpetuate their existence."

Though many local buildings have been lost, the Ketchum-Sun Valley Historical Society and the former Ketchum Historic Preservation Commission issued a list and map of Ketchum’s historically significant buildings in 1990. It chronicles 11 structures built prior to the twentieth century and 33 built prior to 1940.

According to Ketchum city administrator Jim Jaquet, there is nothing in the city’s current policies and ordinances that limit someone’s ability to tear down a historically valuable structure. He also said that though there are design-review standards requiring new buildings to match their surroundings, he said, there is nothing to prohibit a new building being put up next to a historic one.

Many of Ketchum’s historic buildings have burned or have been torn down, Jaquet said.

"We are different from Park City and other western historic districts," he said. "We don’t have a lot of historic buildings in one compact district. They are all spread out."

He said that poses a problem-- instead of protecting an entire district, Ketchum must pinpoint individual buildings. Also, he said, the implementation of overly restrictive historic preservation policies could infringe on owners’ property rights.

Ketchum needs to reinstate a historic preservation commission, Matz said, and needs to make sure those with professional experience fill the positions. Establishing a commission now will make the National Park Service grants available in 2000.

Ketchum City Council will take up the issue at its regular meeting Monday at 6 p.m. at city hall.


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