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For the week of Feb. 16 through Feb. 22, 2000

Greased


Imagine that someone accused of a crime went to court to be met by a judge who said, "I am convinced that you are guilty, but go ahead and argue your innocence." The judge would be disqualified as unfit to hear the trial.

Not so the Ketchum City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission. They are playing the hanging judge to the city’s downtown and to the people who are futilely opposing reduction of building densities there.

Like the judge, the planning and zoning commission and the city council made their decisions about the fate of downtown before hearings ever began on a new comprehensive plan.

The first hearing before the P&Z was Monday night. As it unfolded, it became clear that the plan--with its downtown downzone--is greased.

The Ketchum City Council had weighed in on the downzone last week. Without any public hearing and with scant discussion, the council voted to ax downtown densities and to block new projects until a new plan and a new zoning ordinance is approved.

During Monday’s hearing, P&Z commissioners said repeatedly that they want to hear from the public. Yet, when testimony did not support the plan as written, they appeared to be deaf.

They asked the audience for suggestions for dealing with the perception that buildings are becoming too large in Ketchum. The audience complied. Then, the P&Z rejected the suggestions out of hand.

The commissioners pleaded for more public participation—but made it clear they wanted to hear no more from people with a vested interest in downtown property—landowners, property managers, Realtors, developers, business owners and others with experience in dealing with the consequences of community planning.

The commissioners are burned out on a plan that took them two years to write. They brook no opposition to the document in which they clearly have pride of authorship.

The public hearing was a sham. We expect the second one, scheduled for Feb. 28 at City Hall at 7:30 p.m., to be the same.

The commission and the city council are not looking to on-the-record verbal or written comments to shape the plan.

The plan is being driven by anonymous people who have the ear of the P&Z and the city council—invisible people who are never part of on-the-record hearings.

Opponents of the plan are jousting with ghosts. The real decisions have already been made in the back rooms of City Hall.

The greased plan will gut the downtown. It will hamstring businesses. It will doom efforts to increase parking, increase the supply of affordable housing and ensure a healthy economy.

Worst of all, the city’s hanging judge approach has made the entire process a farce. It is being played out only to satisfy the letter of the law while it tramples its spirit.

Editor’s note: Express Publishing, Inc. owns the building in Ketchum in which this newspaper is published. The building is located in the area proposed for a downzone.

 

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