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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of February 19 - 25, 2003


Putting out the unwelcome mat

Ghost towns still happen.

They donít get as much press or discussion as growing towns, because few people are left to complain when towns shrink.

Rural areas know about shrinkage. Ask Salmon and Cascade, where lumber mills closed. Ask Kellogg and Wallace, where mines closed. Ask the handful of people left in any one of dozens of shrunken farm towns in Idaho what happened when the railroad stopped coming through or when agribusiness ran out family farms.

Ketchum, Hailey and Bellevue have been luckier.

In 1936, Averell Harriman and Union Pacific Railroad breathed new life into the dead mining towns when they created Sun Valley by building a hotel and a ski lift on land that was once a ranch. It was the beginning of a thriving sports and hospitality industry.

Lucky or not, itís a good bet that even in 1936, not everyone was cheering. No doubt there was a complainer somewhere who wanted to freeze the valley in time to preserve the dusty Western ambiance of empty buildings and empty streets.

Yet, only ghost towns are frozen in time, and without renewal, even they eventually turn to dust.

The present situation in the Wood River Valley is puzzling. No farm would dry up its own wells. No ranch would starve its own livestock.

Yet, Sun Valley is sitting by quietly, and Ketchum is actively discouraging development of replacement units for the 320 hotel rooms the valley has lost over the last several years.

Without specific ordinances to help new hotels balance the cost of operations with high land values and development restrictions, Ketchum and Sun Valley are in danger of drying up its own wells.

Ketchum put out the unwelcome mat for hotels and extinguished the light in the window last month when it sent a Main Street hotel proposal, which had been unanimously approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, back to the drawing board. Unswayed by economic and design arguments, the council told developers to conform to height limits, or donít come back.

The council gave little thought to the serious possibility that the cityís own ordinances may make it impossible to build financially viable new hotels.

Itís time for the city to think about itóbefore it dries up its own wells and finds them impossible to restore.


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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.