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For the week of Mar. 15 through Mar. 21, 2000

Biggest decision in 25 years

The Blaine County Planning and Zoning Commission wisely decided to take its time in evaluating the proposal by St. Luke’s hospital to add a big, tall office building to its site south of Ketchum.

It turns out that although St. Luke’s had designated an area for a future office building on its original plan for the site, the county had never approved an office building there. Last week’s editorial that said that the county had already approved a smaller building was in error.

If approved, the building and its impacts on traffic and commercial sprawl will be with the valley well beyond the foreseeable future.

Not only will development of the 40,000-square-foot office building demolish the county’s ban on commercial sprawl, it could increase highway traffic significantly. The building would generate an estimated 1,445 vehicle trips a day on top of the 1,780 that will be generated by the hospital alone. Together they have the potential to increase the number of existing vehicle trips on the highway, now 12,746 per day, by up to 25 percent. Ouch.

In making the building height 46 feet, the building’s designers ignored Ketchum’s height limit of 35 feet and the county’s height limit of 40 feet. They did it for no good reason except they could. The county had overlooked establishing a height limit in this zone when it hastily rewrote a section of its zoning code to allow the hospital to be built.

The decision on the medical office building is arguably the single most important planning decision since zoning was introduced in Blaine County nearly 25 years ago. Residents should watch it closely.


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