For the week of June 30, 1999  thru July 6, 1999  

Ketchum should annex McHanville

Ketchum should get serious about what’s going on at its southern border. It should annex McHanville.

The city is already expending time and money planning the area, which lies in its zone of impact in Blaine County. It’s likely that as the area develops it may need both water and sewer services from the city, as well as fire and police protection. City officials are talking about the need to preserve affordable housing there as well.

Until the county struck a political compromise and approved development of the new St. Luke’s Hospital there, the area was frozen in time, stuck in a limbo of nonconformity with county ordinances. Location of the hospital nearby is putting pressure on the county and the city to decide what to do with the area.

Hospital representatives have said they want the area developed into medical offices. That flies in the face of both city and county planning policies. Both have tried to confine commercial development to the city’s downtown to prevent strip development along the highway.

What happens at McHanville will also affect other property near the hospital--on both sides of the highway. It’s likely that if office uses are approved at McHanville, others will come in with requests for similar developments as well.

It’s important as the discussion goes on to remember that the site of the new hospital was a political compromise that put to rest 20 years of consternation and competition between the area’s two public hospitals. It wasn’t perfect, but it ended a contentious tug of war between Hailey and the north county for the new hospital.

Perhaps residents were lulled by the compact nature of the existing community hospitals, but it’s a good bet they didn’t anticipate the push for development of additional medical facilities along the highway. When county voters approved the hospital site, it was not with the idea that medical services would be a hammer used to break the local ban on highway strip development. It was not approved with the idea that it would draw offices out of Ketchum’s core.

The long-time ban on commercial strip development has served the area well. It has prevented the highway from becoming the ugly strip mall so characteristic of urban areas. It has protected the cities’ downtown cores.

Opening the door to strip commercial development will radically change the character of the valley. Over the years, valley residents have been loathe to deface the beauty of the valley with urban-style development. Ketchum should stop it before it starts by annexing McHanville.


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