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For the week of Mar. 1 through Mar. 7, 2000

Packed house protests downtown plan

Hearing continues tomorrow

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum should forget about reducing the size of buildings in its downtown and should stick with the existing boundaries of its downtown core.

That was the prevailing opinion voiced Monday night when over 100 people packed City Hall for a hearing on a newly proposed comprehensive plan before the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission.

Commissioner Peter Gray said the meeting was "very, very productive."

It was a stark contrast to the contentious first hearing on the new plan held two weeks ago. In that meeting, locals took turns blasting the plan for inconsistencies and poor proposals for downtown.

On Monday, courteous and orderly discussion prevailed between the P&Z and hearing participants

In the "core of the core" concept in the plan, planners drew an arbitrary circle around a portion of the city’s downtown. The plan calls for the size of buildings in the core of the core to remain as they are now.

In areas outside the circle, the plan calls for almost a 60% reduction in the size of buildings allowed there.

The majority of those who testified at Monday’s meeting said the city should deal with objections to new buildings by adopting more stringent design standards, not by reducing size nor by restricting where new commercial buildings may be built in the downtown.

"It’s a design review issue," resident Jed Gray told the commission. "Let the core, as it was designed years ago, be what it’s supposed to be."

Also at issue Monday was how to define Ketchum. The new plan calls for preservation of a "small-town, Western feel."

"There’s only one wooden sidewalk left in town, and that’s in front of Starbucks," Ketchum resident Lloyd Betts said. "I’m sure if I went there and tied my horse up for a while, he’d have a yellow chalk mark on his rump."

The majority of those at the meeting said they do not define Ketchum as "Western," and the reference to it in "small-town, Western feel" should be dropped.

The general feeling at the meeting seemed to be that Ketchum architecture is eclectic. Some said the community’s character is more than that.

"The atmosphere here is not bricks and mortar. It’s the people," said Dick Fenton. "Preserving atmosphere is preserving attitudes."

Promotion of affordable housing in the community core was another controversial topic, with about half of those at the meeting in favor of it and half against.

"The City Council’s going to have fun with this one," Commissioner Gray said. The commission decided to send a plan provision calling on the city to promote affordable housing in the downtown on to the council.

Following the meeting, Gray said it is the commission’s goal to pass the downtown section of the comprehensive plan on to the council by an April deadline set by the council in an emergency ordinance.

The ordinance also temporarily reduced the size of buildings that may be constructed anywhere in the downtown.

For the rest of the plan, the commission "will try to make time," Gray said.

The public hearing on the downtown section of the new comprehensive plan will continue tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. at Ketchum City Hall.


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