For the week of January 13, 1999   thru January 19, 1999  

Leaders ignoring mess south of Ketchum

City and county officials are failing to do the planning necessary to make sure the valley doesn’t become a sea of ugly urban sprawl.

At issue is the area south of Ketchum where a new hospital is proposed.

The area has needed a planning overhaul for a long time. It’s mostly residential, with a handful of businesses in the center. Expansion of businesses has been prohibited. Many commercial buildings have become worn and unattractive.

For years, planners viewed the area like a case of flypaper—open it and they might never get out. The county turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to businesses that cried for release from the purgatory in which they were unable to expand and, in truth, unable to develop housing because of their location on a busy highway.

Then, along came St. Luke’s. When the hospital site south of Ketchum was proposed city and county leaders said it would precipitate an overhaul and a master plan for the area.

It never happened.

County and city officials are still acting deaf and blind about the matter. The area is within Ketchum’s zone of impact, where the city can exert control of development. Yet, both the county and Ketchum have been cream puffs when it comes to the hospital. Neither has even broached questions about the bigger picture: The potential for the area to become a large commercial complex.

While the county convened a committee to study the height of berms, it easily gave its blessing to the hospital’s height of 47 feet—12 feet over the limit in Ketchum.

Ketchum didn’t lodge a whimper of opposition even though the original sign plan for the hospital would have violated its ordinance. The hospital sign and lighting plan has been deferred and a new hearing has yet to be scheduled.

Any other commercial developer would have faced hard questions from the city about building design, height, landscaping, sidewalks, signage and lighting. Not the hospital.

Are local leaders asleep?

Why aren’t county and city leaders debating the impact the hospital will have on the area? Will it attract other commercial developments? Will they be allowed? Will the zoning change and how? Will the mobile homes there disappear? Will the low-cost housing be replaced?

If leaders do not wake up soon, they may slumber through the destruction of 25 years of planning that has protected the valley from urban sprawl down Highway 75. They may end up with a mess that’s worse than the one there now.


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