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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 Oct 30 - Nov 5, 2002


County meets opposition to McHanville rezone plan

Express Staff Writers

After a proposed rezone of McHanville met with scathing criticism from landowners there last week, Blaine County is soliciting expert advice on whether the area is suitable for affordable housing.

The tire dealership, excavation business and mobile homes that occupy the 9-acre parcel next to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center are generally viewed as out of place and an unsightly southern entrance to Ketchum.

The county has been trying for years to upgrade the area and is now considering creating an Urban Residential and Health Services zone to bring that about. The zoning would allow business uses associated with the hospital and provide incentives to developers to build high-density affordable housing. Acknowledging that the current R-.4 zoning has only resulted in stagnation, the county floated the proposed rezone with the intent of prompting landowners to sell their properties for the presumably more profitable new uses.

However, the first public hearing on the proposal, before the county planning and zoning commission Thursday, indicated that substantial obstacles exist. Landowners told the P&Z that the proposed accepted uses are insufficient for them to recoup their investments in their land and lobbied to be allowed wider commercial uses.

"This is planned obsolescence for the McHanville property owners," said Kim Nilsen, owner of the lot containing KD Excavation. "It’s a wonderful philanthropic idea, but we invested money there, and I’m not willing to give my money away so somebody can have affordable housing."

Ketchum resident Henry Dean, who said he has developed affordable housing projects elsewhere, told the P&Z that McHanville property values prohibit a developer from selling units at a profit within the county housing commission’s price guidelines.

McHanville resident David Harris added that few people would want to live between Highway 75 and the hospital.

"To put high-density residential there is just misguided," Harris said.

Responding to the property owners’ requests to open up the area to more general commercial use, County Planner Linda Haavik pointed out that the county’s comprehensive plan says such uses belong in the cities.

"That’s a tough one for us to get over," she said.

The city of Ketchum has also expressed opposition to more commercial use in McHanville. In fact, during a meeting Monday, the city’s P&Z agreed that even ambulance facilities and more medical offices should not be allowed in the area.

"We have to be emphatic," Commissioner Rod Sievers said. "The danger is that the hospital could buy up all these pieces and build another office building, and that’s not what we want."

Acting Planning Administrator Harold Moniz said Ketchum’s goal should be to only allow uses in the area that are essential to the operation of the hospital. Going beyond those uses could pull businesses from Ketchum’s downtown, he said.

In conclusion, Haavik made a general request for expert advice from anyone knowledgeable on the profitability of real estate development and affordable housing.

"If the answer is that we’re going to get nothing, we want to know that," she said. "We’ve got a big, big balancing act here. So we ask for your help."

The P&Z will hold further meetings on the subject on Nov. 7 and 14.



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