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For the week of October 18 through 24, 2000

Council, residents support smaller scale buildings

Express Staff Writer

Local residents packed Ketchum City Hall on Monday night to comment on proposed new design review regulations for downtown buildings, but unlike a previous hearing before the city council two weeks ago, residents favoring smaller buildings dominated the discussion.

Of the more than 30 people who offered comments, nearly all supported the proposed ordinance’s intent to limit building sizes.

"This is a veritable love fest here," said Ketchum resident Nick Cox. "No one is objecting to anything. They’re loving it."

The proposed changes to Ketchum’s downtown zoning code seek to reduce the perceived mass of new buildings by adding more design criteria and to dictate their actual mass using a planning tool called floor area ratios (FARs), which measure a building’s floor area relative to lot size. Council members opened the meeting by stating they support a base floor area ratio (FAR) of 1.4, which is what the city has been using, bonuses aside, since 1984 when the current design review ordinance was adopted. The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended the council adopt a base FAR of 1.3, but council members said that 1.4 works as long as the existing ordinance’s bonus system is not reinstated.

Those bonuses allowed developers to build up to a 2.0 FAR in exchange for providing affordable housing or underground parking.

During a hearing two weeks ago, about two dozen developers and downtown business owners objected to any decrease in the maximum allowed FAR of 2.0.

"I’m not willing to compromise the sense of community, the size of the buildings, for short-term economic gains," Councilman Randy Hall said at Monday night’s meeting. "The long-term investment for our community is in smaller-scale buildings."

The issue of offering higher FARs to developers who provide affordable housing appears to have been set aside for the time being, as council members said they should first adopt a firm base number.

"We have to do something in the near term that will become somewhat permanent," Councilman David Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson advocated FAR bonuses of between .3 and .35 for developers who provide affordable housing, but said it’s an issue the council can revisit once a base FAR is adopted.

Nearly everyone who spoke Monday, some developers included, said a base FAR of 1.4 is satisfactory.

The years-old debate on affordable housing continued, however, and Councilman Maurice Charlat was first to offer a firm opinion.

"I’m not sure [FAR bonuses] will do any good in solving what I consider a rampant and insidious problem that will affect every business and resident in this town," Charlat said. "We have to approach it from an entirely different fork in the road. I don’t think affordable housing tied to building size is going to get us anything."

About half of the residents who commented agreed with Charlat. The other half said affordable housing must be achieved in any way possible, including using FAR bonuses in conjunction with downtown development.

Ketchum P&Z Commissioner Baird Gourlay, also a local ski shop owner, told the council it should consider all possible means of creating affordable housing.

"We are a resort town, and there are two things you have to have in a resort town—tourists and workers. And currently we are losing beds for both of those groups," he said. "You’ve got to start somewhere. Don’t let it pass you by, saying that there’s got to be some other forum. This is the forum."




Council adopts design regs

The Ketchum City Council and several planning and zoning commission members convened yesterday morning, following a public hearing Monday night, to continue discussions on floor area ratios (FARs) and several other provisions of proposed building standards for the city’s downtown.

The council unanimously voted to change the wording of a proposed design review ordinance to reduce maximum heights for flat-roofed buildings to 38.5 feet, including parapets, from a previously proposed 40 feet.

"I know what 40-foot flat top looks like and so does the town and they hate it," Councilman Dave Hutchinson said.

The council also decided to include square footage in stairwells and elevator towers only on first floors in figuring total FARs, as has been done in the past.

That decision contradicts a decision by the P&Z, which had recommended counting square footage on each floor in stairwells and elevator shafts toward a building’s total FAR.

The council approved the changes subject to any reconsideration of council members prior to Friday, which is the deadline the council has set to pass the building heights and FAR sections of the Community City Core Design Review Ordinance. An interim ordinance addressing those subjects expires Oct. 29, and the new ordinance is not considered legal until published in the newspapers a week from today.

The design review section of the ordinance will be discussed at a city council meeting on Nov. 1.


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