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

First domino in commercial sprawl
may fall


The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission could blast the barriers to commercial sprawl along state Highway 75 between Ketchum and Hailey tomorrow night.

At 6:30 p.m. in the Blaine County Courthouse, the P&Z will handle an explosive proposal for construction of a 40,000-square-foot office building next to the new St. Luke’s Hospital south of Ketchum. The hospital already has approval for a 23,000-square-foot office building, but it wants a bigger one. The new building, which would enclose nearly a full-city block of space, would be located north of the hospital that is now under construction.

The office building is the first domino in a chain reaction that could generate ugly commercial sprawl along the highway all the way to Hailey—or beyond.

If the P&Z and the Blaine County commissioners approve the building, valley residents now complaining about growth and change will soon find out that they ain’t seen nothing yet.

Blaine County voters made a major concession when they approved construction of a new hospital just off the highway south of Ketchum. They knew it was risky, but they had no idea how risky.

They were sick of hearing financial horror stories about the future of the county’s two public hospitals, and they were weary of decades of bickering between the two. So, they endorsed the site—a compromise in a tug-of-war between the north and south county.

So much for compromise.

The hospital itself is not the issue. Hospitals in many small towns exist happily surrounded by residential areas. The huge office building is another matter.

If approved as offices for doctors and other medical services, valley residents will hear a roar as more cars make more trips on the highway than ever before.

The sucking sound they will hear in Ketchum and Hailey will be the sound of existing medical offices being vacated.

The clanking sound will be the sound of legal crowbars as they are wedged into the county plan.

The ripping sound will be the county plan as it begins to shred.

The cheering sound will be nearby property owners as they realize that commercial development on their property cannot be far behind.

The P&Z should reject the request for the larger building. It should also recommend that the county rescind approval for any office building there.

The valley’s quality of life depends on it. Good planning demands it. Residents should demand it too.

 

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