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For the week of August 22 - 28, 2001


Council to close Ninth Street on trial basis

Neighborhood request gets leaders’ ears

Express Staff Writer

A group of Knob Hill residents have successfully spearheaded an effort to close one of Ketchum’s streets on a trial basis.

The Ketchum City Council unanimously voted Monday to close Ninth Street between Highway 75 and Alpine Lane—a 160-foot section of the road—for one year, beginning this fall. The council said it hopes to use the trial closure as a means to collect data relating to traffic patterns in the area.

The proposal by 20 Knob Hill residents is to eventually permanently close the road, which they say is too steep and, therefore, dangerous for frequent use. Under their plan, the city would incorporate the street right-of-way as part of the Knob Hill City Park, which includes a rock bluff overlooking Ketchum.

But at the core of the residents’ argument is a quality-of-life issue. Increasing through-traffic on Ninth Street, Alpine Lane and Walnut Avenue detracts from the neighborhood’s tranquil setting, they said.

In the 25 years the road has existed, there has never been an accident on Ninth Street, Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland said.

The quality-of-life argument also appeared to carry little weight with the council.

"I think what we really need to focus on is growth and the impacts and construction and how it’s affecting our community," Councilwoman Chris Potters said. "You can’t do something for one group and not for another group."

Councilman David Hutchinson, whose comments drove the council’s decision on the issue, agreed that quality-of-life improvement is not enough of a reason to close the street.

"If this is just a convenience just for some kind of lifestyle improvement you don’t have a chance," he told the petitioners.

Despite voicing sentiments against road closures in general, the council decided closing Ninth Street temporarily is feasible.

Tied in to the equation is a stop light at the intersection of Sixth and Main streets in Ketchum. Some residents who use Ninth Street as a through road said they do so to avoid the light and the confusion of heavy traffic and merging at the complicated intersection of Sixth Street, Warm Springs Road and Main Street.

Under the city’s plan, traffic counts will be conducted on Highway 75 and Ninth Street this fall before the road is closed. The road will be closed for the winter, and sometime next spring or summer, it will be reopened after the Sixth Street stoplight is removed. Traffic counts will resume when Ninth Street is reopened.

The proposal met little resistance, except from city staff members and one P&Z commissioner who said extreme caution should be taken before deciding to close a city street.

"As a general rule, you want to look very carefully before you close anything," Planning Administrator Lisa Horowitz said.

Ketchum P&Z Commissioner Peter Gray said he thinks the issue should be lumped into a traffic circulation and parking study that the city has budgeted for the coming fiscal year.

Knob Hill residents cringed at Gray’s idea.

"If it gets lost in another government study, it will be 10 years before anything gets done," Walnut Avenue resident Paula Caputo said.

In other council business:

  • The council favorably reviewed a proposal to require affordable housing from developers and residents who request, and are granted, zoning changes. The council did not take a vote, but decided to take another look at the proposal at its next meeting.

The regulations would require residential rezones to provide 30 percent of their allowed density as affordable housing. Commercial rezones would be required to provide affordable housing for 30 percent of the full-time employees the use on the rezoned property would generate. Developers could pay in-lieu of providing housing: $35,000 per full-time employee or $70,000 per each two-bedroom affordable unit required.

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia observed that the concept is "a good way to get some bucks for housing."

"This would act as an inhibitor to rezones. It wouldn’t be a rezone free-for-all," he said.

  • Still wondering if there’s a demand for affordable housing in Ketchum? Consider that 44 Blaine County residents have applied to own one of three units under construction at River Glen, a project in which the city traded density for affordable units.

"They’re not all qualified, but three-quarters are," Ketchum and Blaine County Housing Director Gates Kellett said.

  • The council unanimously approved construction staging regulations that will dictate the extent to which construction workers can intrude on the quality-of-life of those around a project. The resolution gives the city’s staff authority and guidelines to examine excavation, traffic control, deliveries, temporary rest rooms, cleanup, hillside and tree protection and acceptable uses of city streets.

  • The council also unanimously adopted parking requirements for new downtown projects. Rather than measuring required parking by lot width, the number will be calculated by measuring a building’s floor area.

The city’s planners say the new requirement should better reflect the demand for parking a new building will create.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.