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For the week of February 27 - March 5, 2002


Ketchum residents speak up

Affordable housing, transportation top town meeting issues

Express Staff Writer

Transportation issues and affordable housing in Ketchum dominated the open mike portion of a town hall meeting last week. And a Highway 75 consultant agreed Ketchum is sure to be problematic when the time comes to determine eventual expansion plans for the road inside city limit.

Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon kicks off the cityís town hall meeting last week. Express photo by David N. Seelig

"It makes me nervous every time I drive across that Trail Creek bridge," Highway 75 environmental study coordinator Diana Atkins said. "Land uses there are pretty tied up."

The town hall meeting Feb. 20 was the first of what Mayor Ed Simon said will be regularly scheduled forums for citizens to air concerns.

"Not only do we want to hear from you, but we want your involvement," he said.

Atkins didnít offer any sneak peeks of her National Environmental Policy Act study of the corridor, but said she will have a "pretty good idea" by April of what the Highway 75 transportation system needs to be.

Thereafter, "weíre going to get real," she said.

"Like most things in life, the solutions are going to be multifaceted," she said. "Right now, we donít have a lot of answers in terms of what itís going to look like."

Atkins admitted that part of her job is fighting the mistrust the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) instilled in the valley on earlier expansion efforts.

Ketchum City Council members gave the community the spotlight at last weekís town hall meeting and mostly listened. Express photo by David N. Seelig

"I guarantee we will tell you the truth," she said. "I donít want any surprises. We donít want any surprises."

That didnít convince everyone.

"We have to be careful about what ITD does, because they are kind of sly," Karen McCall of Ketchum said.

Ketchum Councilman Randy Hall said ITDís earlier efforts put the project before the process. But the environmental study is bringing the valley together.

"This whole community is starting to work together. Weíre all sitting around the same table now."

The meetingís other hot topic, affordable housing, centered on Ketchumís proposed town center affordable housing project.

Councilman Maurice Charlat is the only city official who has voiced opposition to the project. But roughly half of those at the meeting showed opposition to the project during an informal straw poll.

Skip Weinbel of Ketchum questions the Ketchum City Council about affordable housing and downtown building sizes. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Those who objected to the project said the site is improper for that type of project, and the city is overstepping its fiduciary responsibilities.

Simon argued the points.

"The issue of the site is really a red herring," he said. But he acknowledged fiduciary issues are serious and must be resolved before a project is ever approved.

"The city doesnít have enough land to build enough units," he said. "I go into Atkinsonsí for a sandwich and the people serving it say ĎWe need a place to live up here.í I canít ignore that voice either," Simon said.

Approximately 75 people attended the town hall meeting.


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.