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For the week of Nov. 17, 1999 through Nov. 23, 1999

Council seeks to resolve chamber funding issue


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Monday’s Ketchum City Council meeting was threaded with political and legal debate over the legality of the city’s annual financial offering to the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce.

The council decided two weeks ago to reexamine the legality of the donation at the request of Ketchum resident Craven Young, who said he thinks it is not legal for the city to do so.

Young cited the Idaho Constitution as part of the evidence backing his argument.

The constitution states that "no county, city, town, township…or other subdivision shall lend, or pledge the credit or faith thereof directly or indirectly, in any manner, to, or in aid of any individual, association or corporation…" (Article 8, section 4)

Each year, Ketchum gives the chamber a percentage of its local option tax (LOT) proceeds and earmarks it for marketing and information to sell the area to tourists. This year, the city is offering the chamber $315,000.

At the meeting’s conclusion, following over an hour of discussion and debate, the council directed Ketchum city attorney Margaret Simms to consult with the Fifth District Court in Hailey and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office to resolve the issue. Also, council members said they will look into the issue again at their next meeting. Councilman David Hutchinson was not present.

However, Simms said in an interview that there is no such thing as consulting with a district court. A court will not render advisory opinions, she said. She said she will ask the council for clarification on that request at the meeting.

Additionally, she said she will be contacting the attorney general’s office to look into the procedure to be followed for consultation.

The city council’s request came after Simms offered her legal opinion on the issue, which advised the council that the annual offering to the chamber is legal.

Her written legal opinion concludes: "Article 8, section 4…does not apply to the expenditure of public funds for area marketing and tourist information services. The city of Ketchum’s contract with the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce expressly precludes the expenditure of Ketchum’s funding for private purposes."

She goes on to write that the chamber is "essentially public in nature, for the purpose of marketing the area and providing tourist information."

But Young disputed Simms’ legal opinion.

"That’s what being an attorney’s about," he said. "When you have the facts, you present the facts. When you don’t have anything, you cut and paste all the pieces (of past similar cases) together and bull…. your way through."

Simms then said that the appropriate forum in which to dispute her opinion was not at the city council meeting.

"I don’t understand how the council can look at your legal arguments and my legal arguments and make a decision on it," Simms said. "It belongs in a court."

The issue will be re-examined at the city’s Dec. 1 meeting.

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In another city matter, the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission will soon see a lighter load of commercial projects in the design review process.

At the commission’s request, the council voted to cut the commission’s design review workload by half until the comprehensive plan is completed. Projects already in the P&Z’s pipeline will be reviewed on the usual schedule.

In P&Z meetings starting in January, the P&Z will begin devoting two hours to its regular workload and two hours to the comprehensive plan.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel," P&Z chair Peter Ripsom told the council. "The rough draft of the comprehensive plan is nearly completed."

Ripsom said the commission, which has been working to rewrite a draft of the comprehensive plan since last winter, should have a rough draft finished by sometime in January.

"I’m advocating that we have some sort of a (commercial construction) slowdown until the comprehensive plan is in place," commissioner Rod Sievers said.

The council members agreed, voting unanimously to do so, again with councilman David Hutchinson absent.

"No one wants to see another million square feet (of construction) without a comprehensive plan—without any direction," councilman Randy Hall said.

Planning administrator Lisa Horowitz said developers should expect their applications to take two to four weeks to be processed before they’ll go before the commission. The current standard, she said, is about 20 days.

 

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