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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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For the week of February 27 - March 5, 2002


Ketchum to reconsider hotel size, height limit

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum is reopening its downtown zoning laws to consider amending recently amended ordinances that dictate the height, size and style of downtown buildings.

Amendments, which could allow for taller and denser buildings, would only be for hotels, however.

"There is no question in my mind that this is a very complex issue, and weíre going to have to hear from a lot more people," Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioner Peter Gray said.

The P&Z unanimously voted Monday night to put off consideration of the issue for a month in order to amend the proposal and to raise public awareness about the potential changes.

According to the P&Zís decision, the proposal will be amended to include a mechanism to transfer heights and densities between Ketchumís buildings to allow hotels to build to higher heights and densities than other downtown buildings.

"I strongly believe we are lacking hotels, and itís been detrimental to have lost the beds weíve lost," Commissioner Rod Sievers said. "But whatever we do needs to be site specific."

The debate surrounding Ketchumís hotels and motels isnít new. For several years, residents have watched as lodges and hotels have disappeared, including the Alpenrose, Heidelberg and Christiania.

Now, with Elkhorn Resort on the verge of closing its doors in Sun Valley, thereís a niche to be filled in the north valley, Ketchum lawyer and developer Brian Barsotti said.

"What does Ketchum want to be?" Barsotti asked the P&Z. "Does Ketchum want to be a bedroom community for Sun Valley, or does it want to be a resort?"

Barsotti owns Ketchumís historic Bald Mountain Lodge, which occupies an entire block and fronts on Main Street. According to city planners and officials, Barsottiís is one of only several sites in the city that can accommodate a hotel.

Whether Bald Mountain Lodge is replaced with a new hotel or condominiums, it "isnít here for long," Barsotti said.

"If we donít do a hotel, we definitely need to do something else," he said.

Over the course of several months, Barsotti said he has worked with a team of hotel designers and consultants to determine if a new, full service hotel at his Bald Mountain Lodge site is feasible.

"It would unequivocally be easier to build residential than a hotel," Barsotti said. "I live in Ketchum, and Iíve thought a lot about this. If we can do this the way weíd like to, we can make a hotel work."

That means adding a fourth floor and incorporating fractional ownership to help the business make money during shoulder seasons.

But changes to the cityís zoning code can not be based on a particular site, Planning Administrator Lisa Horowitz said. Officials therefore decided to study several sites, including Barsottiís, to determine how zoning code amendments might affect the eventual appearances of hotels. Winter & Co., the Boulder-based firm that helped Ketchum rewrite its downtown zoning code two years ago, will study several sites for about $5,000, Horowitz said.

Ken Carwin, owner of the Tamarac Lodge in Ketchum and the Wood River Inn in Hailey, said he perceives a definite need for more short-term beds in Ketchum.

"In the summer, if I had another 80 rooms, I could sell them," Carwin said. "I think itís pretty short sighted to pass on a developer who is trying to do something for the community. For our tourist economy, itís going to have to happen."


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.