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For the week of Mar. 8 through Mar. 14, 2000

P&Z dumps "core of the core"

Express Staff Writer

The "core of the core" is no more.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission scrapped the "core of the core" concept from the city’s proposed comprehensive plan Thursday night.

The "core of the core" idea was to draw an arbitrary circle around a portion of the city’s downtown and further restrict building heights and bulk outside the circle. The plan would have left current size and design restrictions on buildings inside the circle.

But public comment at a P&Z meeting on Monday of last week prompted the commission to take another tack.

"Our focus is going to be on design review standards," said Commissioner Rod Sievers "Bulk will be modified accordingly to these design review standards."

Developers must receive design review approval from the city before a building permit is granted. Design review standards are set by ordinance.

Sievers and the other commissioners didn’t specify possible methods to regulate building bulk through design review standards.

"We haven’t written a how-to yet," Sievers said, "but the policy will say basically the buildings are going to stay in scale."

The commission’s series of meetings on amending the city’s comprehensive plan followed an emergency action taken by the Ketchum City Council on Feb. 7 that froze large building applications for 120 days.

In passing the emergency regulations, the city council said it was prudent to impose the restrictions until the comprehensive plan is completed.

A leading proponent of the moratorium is Ketchum Mayor Guy Coles.

"It was the only tool we could use at the time," the mayor said Friday during a conversation in the City Hall council chambers.

"We are a small Western community," he said. "We’re drifting away" from the city’s roots.

Though residents who have spoken at the city’s comprehensive plan hearings are, in general, against building bulk reductions, written comments received by the city’s planning department have been split about half in favor and half against downtown building-bulk reduction.

"Planning and zoning should take the concept to its limit," wrote Ketchum resident Richard Young to the city’s planning department. "A small Western town does not support a four-story blot on the landscape, blocking out views of the mountain, the sunlight, [and conflicting with] a consistency to the street landscape…"

Coles said the emergency measure wasn’t approved out of concern that a clutch of developers was about to apply for downtown building permits.

"We weren’t out to get anybody," he emphasized.

Coles said he is a pragmatist and understands that the city can’t remain frozen in time.

"There’s no way we can keep it like it was when I came here on Dec. 10, 1964," he said. Coles acknowledged that Ketchum has lost some of its original Western, small-town feeling, but said he’s not throwing in the towel.

"I’d like to see buildings built within reason, buildings I can be proud of, large sidewalks and setbacks," he said.

Indeed, Coles said he is pushing for "a feeling of openness instead of a Wall Street effect. I want to get as far away from Wall Street as I can."


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