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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 January 15 - 21, 2003


Bald Mountain Hotel enters home stretch

Council vote expected Tuesday

Express Staff Writer

More than three years of planning and more than a year of public hearings will culminate next week when the Ketchum City Council votes to either support or deny plans to build a tall downtown Ketchum hotel.

The Bald Mountain Hotel is shown as it would appear from the Forest Service Park. Rendering courtesy of CAD Drafting Systems

At the core of the associated public debate is the building’s proposed 59-foot height, accented with a 69-foot clock tower. Opponents say the height is too far beyond the city’s 40-foot height limit. Proponents say the proposal is the city’s best shot at achieving resort-oriented economic development in a tourist-dependent economy.

The Ketchum City Council will host a public hearing on the issue Tuesday, Jan. 21, at Ketchum City Hall at a meeting that begins at 5:30 p.m.

The new hotel would replace the historic Bald Mountain Lodge, which occupies an entire city block at the south end of Ketchum’s Main Street. It would include 81 high-end rooms and a 46,000-square-foot conference facility. Rooms at the full-service hotel would rent in the neighborhood of $275 per night.

Despite its lofty maximum height, the project’s developer, Brian Barsotti, pointed out that the structure’s stepped-back, wedding cake-like design would impact city streets less than many of the city’s two-story buildings.

"By putting 12 percent of the building on the fourth floor, you gain more than 14,000 square feet of open space at the ground level," Barsotti said. "We’ve spent money on this project for the past five years. We’re just ready to move on. We’ve just spent way too much time and money on this thing."

The proposed Bald Mountain Hotel would occupy an entire city block where the existing historic Bald Mountain Lodge is located. The building’s ‘H’ layout would create courtyards of open space. The building’s tallest roof lines, measuring 59 feet tall, would be situated near the crossbar of the ‘H’. Rendering courtesy of CAD Drafting Systems

The number of hotel rooms in Ketchum and Sun Valley has been on the decline for several years, and business owners have taken notice. From 1999 to 2002, Ketchum lost 111 hotel rooms and a difficult-to-surmise number of condominiums. Sun Valley lost 132 rooms last fall when Elkhorn closed its hotel.

Hotel rooms lost in recent years, including Elkhorn, constitute 26 percent of the north valley’s previous hotel bed base.

Citing the need for short-term lodging, more than 20 Ketchum restaurant and bar owners signed a letter to the editor appearing in today’s paper calling for approval of Barsotti’s project.

"The new hotel will enhance the economic vitality of the Ketchum commercial core," they wrote. "Our businesses are dependent on tourism, and Ketchum needs new hotels."

Though support for the hotel appears widespread, including a unanimous endorsement from the city’s planning and zoning commission, that support may not be where it will count most.

In a Ketchum City Council meeting two weeks ago, council members Chris Potter and Randy Hall expressed trepidation with the project. Councilman Baird Gourlay recused himself from consideration of the project because of a perceived, though not legal, conflict of interest. Potters and Hall, therefore, have the votes to sink the proposal if they wish.

"The height does it for me. It’s just too much," Potters said last week. "When we had huge numbers of people coming out to talk about the comprehensive plan and how they wanted the plan to develop and how they wanted the town to be, it didn’t include buildings that were 70 feet tall."

Slightly complicating the matter, the historic hotel is one of only two Ketchum properties listed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. However, listing does little to prevent historic structures from being razed, said National Register spokeswoman Linda McClulland.

"Basically, owners can manage their properties as they wish," McClulland said. "Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do to intervene, because it’s certainly outside of our authority."

Listing only makes properties available for government tax credits and grants that will be used to restore a property to historically accurate standards.

Nonetheless, Ketchum’s historic preservation gurus are pushing for preservation.

"The Bald Mountain Lodge compliments the (neighboring Forest Service) park and park buildings, in size, height and historic age," wrote Historical Society President Ann Zauner in a letter to the Idaho Mountain Express. "The lodge adds to the character of the area and makes a statement about the town as one enters the city on Main Street."

Zauner said in a separate interview that her goal is to purchase and preserve the building.

"We would love to buy it, which would be ideal, and bring it back to its actual historic status," she said. "We haven’t given up hope yet."

The preservation camp will have to act fast, whether a hotel is built or not.

Barsotti said he has already been approached by another developer interested in partnering to build a 100 percent residential project at the site if the hotel sinks.

But Barsoti said Ketchum is in need of a hotel.

"Short term, the small town character of the town is something everyone’s concerned about," he said. "But long term, whether you can maintain a vibrant commercial core without a hotel—when you look at retailers and restaurant people, you’re going to see a lot of the services disappear because of a less vibrant commercial core."

The following URLs connect to various computer renderings of the Bald Mountain Hotel proposal, which were built by Ketchum-based CAD Drafting Systems:

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/BML-Presentation3.mov

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/BML-Presentation3.pps

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/1st_Washington.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/Washington_River.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/BML_MAIN_STREET.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/40_HEIGHT_SLICE.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/50_HEIGHT_SLICE.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/Williams2.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/River_street_west_NEW.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/Forest_service_park.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/REAR.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/FRONT_ELEV.jpg

·  www.cdssunvalley.com/files/ROOF_NEW.jpg


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