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For the week of December 19 - 25, 2001


Affordable housing debate draws crowd

Ketchum’s Town Center in the hot seat

Express Staff Writer

The prospect of another new affordable housing complex packed meeting chambers Monday night when the Ketchum City Council unanimously passed a resolution that will enable the city to help fund its proposed Town Center project.

Public comments on the proposed project were 13 to four in favor of moving forward, but Mayor David Hutchinson pointed out that the negative opinions were enough to stifle progress at this early stage in the process.

"This is not the grand, big step," he said. "This resolution is barely scratching the surface enough to get this thing moving."

Hutchinson called the negativity "unfortunate," given the lessons the city has learned regarding housing and the difficulties it has overcome in the past.

City Council members, as well as Mayor-elect Ed Simon and Councilman-elect Baird Gourlay, spoke favorably about the project.

"We can’t keep pushing all (our citizens) to Hailey, or we’ll have no community here," Gourlay said.

Simon, like Hutchinson, said Monday’s decision is only a preliminary step.

"If we proceed tonight, it doesn’t mean we ignore design review criteria or any other requirements," he said.

The resolution passed Monday will allow the city to apply for funding by a Feb. 15 deadline, Ketchum and Blaine County Housing Director Gates Kellett said. The funds, if awarded, would be earmarked for the Town Center site.

If eventually built, the Town Center project could bring 15 to 20 affordable, rental units to the city’s downtown at the corner of Fourth and Main streets. It would include office space and underground parking.

The offices’ construction on the same site as the current Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce does not mean the chamber would continue to be a tenant there, Ketchum officials pointed out.

While those who objected to the project said the site is too centrally located, supporters generally thought the opposite.

"I’m very much concerned about where it’s going," said Ketchum resident Janet Dunbar. "I just don’t think we should give it a blank sheet of paper and say we’ll do anything for affordable housing."

Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia pointed out, however, that "somebody always says that."

"We have to have a little bit of affordable housing just about everywhere," Garcia said. "This fight seems slow and tortuous, but we’ve got to keep our heads to the grindstone if we’re going to get anywhere on this."

Both Dunbar and Garcia ran unsuccessfully for mayor in the November general election.

Ketchum resident Anne Corrock, who had been a council candidate in the city’s first run-off election, asked questions about the building’s design, size, cost, commitment to the city and many others. Simon told her that he would begin organizing meetings on the project when he takes the city’s reigns in the new year to attempt to answer such questions.

Separately Monday night, Hutchinson, with the council’s unanimous approval, appointed Ketchum resident Chase Hamilton to the city’s Housing Commission for a three-year term. Hamilton was one of five mayoral candidates in this fall’s election.

"He spoke very favorably about housing during the mayoral campaign and is willing to serve," Hutchinson said. "We’re looking forward to some new and fresh ideas."

Hamilton said he is excited to continue his involvement with the city he has called home since his birth.

By a split vote, the city council adopted a resolution in favor of re-prioritizing cleanup funds spent at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory near Arco to stress cleanup of buried waste ahead of removal of stored waste.

The vote came on the heels of a previous presentation two weeks ago from the Snake River Alliance and a separate presentation from U.S. Geological Survey scientists who work at the INEEL.

Councilman Maurice Charlat said he voted against the resolution because it referenced three of Idaho’s cash crops in connection with potential pollutants without substantiating the position with science.

"This language is too simplistic for a resolution of this import," he said.

Ketchum is on its way toward adoption of a power franchise agreement with Idaho Power Co., the city’s electricity provider, that would help facilitate burying power lines throughout the city. A franchise agreement has been absent for five years.

After reviewing portions of the agreement with Idaho Power representatives, city officials said adoption could occur as early as Jan. 4.

Charlat suggested the city establish a fund earmarked for burying power lines that would receive 100 percent of franchise fees collected. The council and mayor agreed.


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.