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For the week of Apr. 19 through Apr. 25, 2000

Goals set for downtown development

City begins to ratify comp plan

Express Staff Writer

The lengthy process of forming a new Ketchum Comprehensive Plan entered its final phase this month as the city council voted to approve its first portions of the plan—those governing downtown development.

Ketchum’s current planning and zoning ordinances are based on a comp plan drawn up in 1983. The process to draw up a new plan began in February 1997 when the city began collecting public input on problems facing the town and on desired future conditions.

The new draft plan includes sections on economic development, land use, community housing, transportation and environmental resources.

In an interview, city planning administrator Lisa Horowitz said the new plan "builds and refines" on the 1983 plan. She said the draft plan addresses concerns that were only minor in 1983, such as traffic, parking and building bulk.

Horowitz pointed out that other development issues have been addressed since then with the enactment of a Mountain Overlay Zone and building restrictions in flood plains and avalanche areas.

The portions approved by the city council Thursday—during a sparsely attended joint meeting with the planning and zoning panel—make up only a small fraction of the total draft plan. Mayor Guy Coles said in an interview Friday that he hopes to have a new plan adopted before Labor Day.

For each section, the draft plan contains—in ascending order of specificity—goals, policies and action plans.

The council ratified the plan’s three goals governing downtown development and two of numerous draft policies to implement those goals.

Goal One is to make the city’s core a place that "fosters a friendly atmosphere" and to retain its "small mountain-town character" through the design and scale of buildings. That goal also states that the city shall support local businesses and address automobile impacts.

Goal Two is to concentrate commercial uses in the community core.

Goal Three is to promote housing in the community core.

The council and P&Z members also discussed other draft policies related to downtown development, including making Main Street and Sun Valley Road more attractive to pedestrians, developing a public transportation center and requiring new development to provide its share of parking, preferably underground.

Some of the approximately dozen members of the public attending the meeting expressed reservations about a policy of encouraging more parking space.

"What you’re doing is bringing more and more cars into the center of the city where you don’t want them," said Ketchum resident Mary Jane Conger.

P&Z Commissioner Baird Gourley agreed, and suggested that an additional comp plan policy to charge for parking may resolve that.

"When you start making people pay, they’ll start figuring out a way to get to town without driving a car," he said.

An additional policy states that the city will continue to allow parking on Main Street, but remove it to make space for a turn lane when increased traffic requires that.

"I don’t agree with wanting to get parking off there," countered Ketchum resident Derek Ryan. "The problem is that Main Street is going to become more and more of a highway."

City Councilman David Hutchinson told Ryan that it is the council’s goal as well to make Main Street more friendly to pedestrians. He suggested that the policy be reworded to prioritize street-scaping on Main Street rather than creating a turn lane.

The council will take up ratification of those and further draft policies for the downtown core during a meeting on Thursday, April 27 at 5:30 p.m.


In addition to comp plan items, the council and P&Z heard a presentation from local architect Jim Ruscitto. He proposed that the city limit the mass of new downtown buildings by requiring each floor to be stepped back from the one below it, rather than through the current standard of regulating the ratio of floor area to lot size.

"The more those floors can pull back in perspective, the less likely you are to have the appearance of massive buildings," Ruscitto said.

In a handout given to city officials, he wrote that such a concept was used in the first zoning ordinance passed in the United States, in New York City during the early skyscraper era of the 1920s.

Ruscitto said developers could be given the leeway to have a portion of their buildings’ facades be vertical, thereby eliminating a uniform stair-step effect.

Ruscitto’s idea met with a favorable response from the officials present.

"I for one think you’ve come up with a fine plan and perhaps a solution," Coles said.


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