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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of July 31 - August 6, 2002


SV residents split over proposed arts center

Mayor assures public that deal is not done

Express Staff Writer

Addressing a packed house at a special town meeting, Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson assured Sun Valley and Ketchum residents last Wednesday that a controversial proposal to build a $20-25 million arts facility on city property will undergo multiple rounds of public review before it could be approved.

Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson explains aspects of an arts center proposed for the city’s five-acre parcel adjacent to Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church. A working design for the facility was drafted by architect Harry Teague of Aspen, who has designed similar facilities in other Western resort towns. Express photo by David Seelig

Wilson said that a "needs analysis" to determine whether the facility is necessary and viable will take at least three months, and before the end of the year should provide city officials and project proponents with guidance as to whether the proposal should proceed.

The mayor explained that if the study determined the project was indeed viable, the beneficiaries of the project—including the Sun Valley Arts Foundation and its allies—would be asked to show that the project was properly endowed before it was given approval to proceed.

"You don’t build it if you don’t raise the money," he said.

At issue is the future of a five-acre parcel along Sun Valley Road that the City of Sun Valley acquired in December 2000 through a land-swap deal with the Sun Valley Co. The city has entered into an informal agreement with the foundation stipulating that the foundation can lease the site for a nominal fee if it can raise the money to build the facility—and prove that it will be of benefit to the community over the long term.

The city has allocated $100,000 to be spent on designing and researching the need for the project, but Wilson guaranteed residents that the center will not be built with taxpayer dollars.

In its current design, the proposed center would house an indoor performance hall, an outdoor amphitheater, dance studios, a city park above an underground parking garage, plus office space for the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and the Arts Alliance.

The city has spent roughly $60,000 on researching and designing the project to this point, and will pay half of the $40,000 needs analysis cost, which will be split with the foundation, Wilson said.

Wilson suggested that some residents are under a "misconception" that most of the remaining land along the Sun Valley Road corridor is not zoned for development. He told the crowd that its owner, the Sun Valley Co, could develop the remainder of the land adjacent to the city parcel—referred to as "the horse pasture."

He added that he believes Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding will eventually develop two larger parcels east of the horse pasture—the Penny Mountain and Cottonwood parcels—which are zoned for roughly 70 and 200 residential units respectively.

Testimony from the group of roughly 80 area residents at the meeting last week showed that opinions on the proposal are largely split.

"I see that beautiful [place] turning into something I’d rather not look at," said Sun Valley resident Cheryl Stephenson.

Dan Drackett, chairman of the Sun Valley Arts Foundation, said his group views the project as an arts campus that will bring the Wood River Valley’s arts organizations into one venue.

"We thought it was an exciting idea [when the idea was formed], and think it is an exciting idea now," he said. "Nobody is trying to ram anything down anybody’s throat," Drackett added. "Defiling open space is not what we’re about."

The apparent differences in opinions prompted some in the crowd to ask the mayor to conduct a vote on the arts-center concept and its proposed location at the entrance to the city.

However, Wilson said that any vote on the matter legally must be "non-binding," and could only be conducted as an advisory poll.

"You can’t vote on issues like this," he said.

Answering to demands for an advisory poll or straw poll of residents in the room, Wilson said, "What we’re doing with all these meetings is a comprehensive survey."

Drackett said this week that his organization wants to be sensitive to the desires of the local residents. However, he noted that if the group was forced to purchase property at an alternate location, the overall cost for a new arts campus might prohibit its creation.

"That could be a deal breaker," he said.



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