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For the week of Feb. 9 through Feb. 15, 2000

Rotting to the core

The Ketchum mayor and City Council members reduced the size of buildings Monday night.

They did so by tacking an item onto the agenda last Friday.

They did it with no public hearings.

They did it by axing the work of hundreds of citizens. In its place, the council substituted its own judgment that buildings in Ketchum are getting too big.

They slammed the door on future commercial buildings designed under existing rules.

They imposed a scenario that rejects further development of Ketchum’s 19th century-style downtown. Instead, buildings would be mostly one story. Any multi-story buildings would be plopped in the center of mostly open lots.

It was one of the most brash and ill-considered actions the city has ever taken.

By fiat, the council reduced densities and building height in the downtown core. It put the public on notice that it is planning to do so permanently.

It put a revised version of the city’s comprehensive plan—unveiled just last week—on a blazing fast track. The council mandated the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission to "make recommendations on these and other land use issues in the Revised Draft Comprehensive Plan and shall submit them for consideration to the City Council by April 2000."

That barely gives the P&Z enough time to hold a single hearing on the issue, let alone the dozens of issues contained in the plan.

The new plan is an unresolved and contradictory wish list for ice cream and chocolate sauce at every meal.

Ice cream and chocolate sauce are tantalizing, but a steady diet will be rotting to the core—the downtown core. It will also give the rest of Blaine County a big belly ache.

The plan calls for more housing while downzoning more than half the city’s downtown core—the likely place for high-density housing.

It cries out against sprawl while outlining policies that will force commercial growth out of the city and return the threat of commercial development along state Highway 75.

It breaks faith with the city’s 20-year promise to be the place for density in order to preserve the rural atmosphere around it.

It deplores the high prices that are producing economic pressure on small businesses and ordinary-families while calling for policies that will only increase the pressure.

It minimizes the importance of the tourist industry on the local economy, spinning instead the illusion that the economy is "diversified."

It is an unpalatable concoction.

Foolish or wise, the wish list will have the power of law if adopted. Residents and businesses must pay attention and get involved or they will surely rue the day they did not.


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