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

Council declares city emergency to brake construction

Commercial building boom spurs decision

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum officials voted Monday night to declare a city emergency, posed by booming construction of massive buildings in the city’s downtown commercial area.

The council’s 3-2 vote ushers in a 120-day period in which interim regulations for building height and mass will be instituted. The vote was made at a regular city council meeting.

There’s been too much building, too fast, to properly plan for the city’s growth, Ketchum Planning Administrator Lisa Horowitz said in an interview. "That’s why there was an emergency."

Council members tied on the vote, allowing Mayor Guy Coles to break the tie. He voted for the measure.

Though the council was unanimously in favor of the interim regulations, the split vote was triggered by four commercial projects the city has already begun reviewing.

Under the terms of the approved emergency measure, the four projects will not be subject to the interim regulations.

Council members Maurice Charlat and Chris Potters wished to subject the four projects that are already in the "pipeline" to the interim regulations.

Councilmen Randy Hall and David Hutchinson said it would not be fair to subject buildings already under city review to regulations that were not in place before the project’s applications were submitted.

"Even if they’re in pre app (preapplication design review, the process in which the city’s planning and zoning commission offers feedback to a developer before final plans are drawn up), they have the right to develop their property as the rules were when they first applied to the city," Hall said.

In splitting the vote, Mayor Coles declared: "I’m a firm believer in property rights. If they have a plan, it may not be a plan we want right now, but they have the right to develop under the regulations that were in place when they applied."

The proposed Ketchum Hotel and new Christiania, which will be two of Ketchum’s largest buildings if built, are among the four projects in the "pipeline."

The others, a new building proposed for the former Louie’s site and the Cimarron, which will be adjacent to the Galena Engineering building on Seventh Street, have not been before the planning and zoning commission but have received review by the city’s staff.

The interim regulations are designed to moderate city growth until a new comprehensive plan is in place. Such a plan has been in the works for the past two years. City officials are confident that the plan will be adopted by the city council early this summer.

The 120-day maximum, however, will only give the city until mid-April, several months before the plan is scheduled to be adopted.

Ketchum City Attorney Margaret Simms said in an interview that the city could adopt an ordinance by the time the emergency regulations expire to regulate building height and size in a similar way, until the comprehensive plan is adopted.

The proposed comprehensive plan calls simply for lower building size in the downtown area and on the fringes of the downtown area, without citing specific size maximums.

It is clear that the recent spurt of large buildings spurred the emergency declaration.

"The reason we are doing this is because of the buildings in the pipeline," Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioner Baird Gourlay told the council.

The interim regulations do away with the city’s maximum allowed building height and maximum allowed floor area ratios. Floor area ratios are a means by which planners can calculate a building’s size. To calculate a building’s floor area ratio, its gross square footage is divided by lot size.

In all cases, a larger floor area ratio means a larger building, Horowitz said.

The interim regulations will pose maximum floor area ratios of 1.2, with increases to 1.4, 1.6 or 1.3 if certain planning requirements, like extra parking or affordable housing, are met. The new Colonnade, as an example, has a floor area ratio of 1.26, and Gail Severn’s new gallery, next to Java tallies in at 1.75.

Previously, floor area ratios of 1.4, 2 or 1.85 were allowed with the same exceptions.

The city’s existing regulations also pose a 35 foot height restriction with an exception for projects that include underground parking or affordable housing units. Buildings incorporating either of those two may build to 40 feet under the existing regulations.

The interim regulations will pose a maximum height of 35 feet for all buildings built in Ketchum’s downtown.

According to Idaho law, cities may institute interim regulations when a comprehensive plan is nearing completion "if a governing board finds that an imminent peril to the public health, safety or welfare" is evident. The maximum time allowed under the law is 120 days.

In other city council news:

  • Ketchum is drawing up plans for a Local Improvement District (LID) that would help pay for a new Broadway Bridge, across the Big Wood River, parallel to the Warm Springs Road bridge.

The council was unanimous on the issue Monday night, and a proposed LID district will be presented to the city council at its next meeting.


  • The Blackjack Ketchum Shootout Gang was also at Monday’s meeting, discussing performance goals for coming Wagon Days appearances.

The city council told gang members Walt Cochran and James Valesey to search out acting instruction, begin fund- raising and to start answering to the Wagon Days committee again.

"Let the mayor and the Wagon Days committee act as a filter," Hutchinson said.


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