For the week of January 20, 1999   thru January 26, 1999  

Sidewalks: Ketchum’s ongoing pedestrian enigma

Express Staff Writer

Step on a crack.

Break your mother’s back.

Yack, yack, yack,

The sidewalk issue’s back!

It’s a recurring Ketchum motif. On a planning and zoning level, at parking committee meetings, among council members and among residents, Ketchum’s sidewalks continue to provoke discussion.

On Nov. 16, the Ketchum City Council cut a portion from a proposed Local Improvement District (LID) Sidewalk Improvement Plan, deciding not to require sidewalks in areas where the community core is primarily residential. But an amended version of the plan was scheduled to be considered at a city council comprehensive plan meeting yesterday.

Although the meeting did not take place by the Mountain Express’s deadline, Ketchum city administrator Jim Jaquet said the public hearing was to provide property owners and the public with the opportunity to comment on the LID plans. The next step, assuming objections didn’t dominate the public hearing, Jaquet said, will be to adopt an LID ordinance and have plans and specifications drawn up.

If all runs smoothly, Jaquet said, the sidewalk improvements should be under construction by May or June.

Jaquet said the purpose of the sidewalk improvement project is to provide continuous sidewalks along a stretch where Leadville and Washington avenues and Fifth and Sixth streets intersect, a predominantly commercial area, and to thereby increase the pedestrian friendliness of Ketchum.

And at a Jan. 7 comprehensive plan meeting, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission considered a need for sidewalks in a west Ketchum residential neighborhood around Bird Drive.

"It’s becoming more dangerous down there," said Ketchum planning administrator Lisa Majdiak.

She was countered, however, by Ketchum resident Robert Renfro, who said he doesn’t want Ketchum to look like San Francisco.

"Sidewalks just seem so suburban to me," Renfro said.

Majdiak later said in an interview that sidewalks are not required in residential areas, but they are in tourist-zoned sectors. Because the tourist zone abuts the residential area around Bird Drive and both zones are building out in similar fashions, sidewalks might be appropriate in that area, she said.

"Some citizens there said sidewalks are needed," she said. "It’s an issue the council should look into."

Although the planning and zoning commission only discussed the possibility of Bird Drive sidewalks, neither supporting nor negating the proposal, west Ketchum resident and Coffee Grinder owner Nicola Potts said in an interview that they are not necessary.

"I don’t see it as a safety issue at this point," she said.

Potts said money for sidewalks could be better spent elsewhere. Speed bumps, police work, traffic and parking issues are more important, she said, adding that she would like to see the money directed toward more community events rather than sidewalk construction.

Another pedestrian-oriented issue facing the city involves the cleaning and maintenance of its existing sidewalks. Currently, property owners are responsible for snow removal and cleaning chores along sidewalks, Majdiak said.

But the possibility of having a centralized, city-managed cleaning program has been preliminarily discussed at parking committee meetings, she said.

According to Ketchum Police officer Beverly Hedin, who enforces the winter maintenance of Ketchum’s sidewalks, the idea is good in theory but could be difficult to implement.

It could be very expensive, she said, depending on how it was funded.

Hedin also pointed out that the signposts on the sidewalks would make it difficult to clear the pedestrian ways economically. They almost have to be shoveled rather than snow blown or plowed, she said.

The city of Hailey instituted such a cleaning program when its improvement district project was completed in the mid-eighties.

According Hailey street department foreman Kelly Schwarz, it is the Hailey street department’s job to maintain the sidewalks, fixing them—with city money—when they are in disrepair, and clearing them.

"It guarantees that the sidewalks will always be taken care of, whereas property owners didn’t always take good care of them," he said.


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