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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 April 23 - 29, 2003


Sun Valley debates affordable housing for commercial areas

Express Staff Writer

The concept of affordable housing in Sun Valley’s commercially zoned districts is getting thorough review by the Sun Valley City Council as the body weighs amendments to the city’s commercial zoning rules.

At a regular city council meeting Thursday, April 17, Sun Valley leaders debated the merits of offering density or height bonuses to developers who build deed-restricted affordable housing or market rate "compact" units less than 1,200 square feet in size.

The only firm conclusion the lawmakers arrived at was to pare out a section of the draft amendments that would have allowed buildings containing one deed-restricted housing unit to be 64 feet tall.

As written, the draft ordinance proposes to cap building heights at 44 feet with a three-foot increase permitted for the screening of mechanical equipment. However, exceptions up to 64 feet would be permitted for hotels, mixed-use buildings containing at least 4,000 square feet of commercial space, or residential buildings containing at least 20 percent affordable housing.

In addition, density bonuses would be given for developments including "compact" or deed-restricted housing units.

Council chairman Latham Williams said he doesn’t believe developers will ever get past the commercial space incentive.

"I think we’ll never get a hotel or affordable housing if we’ve got (the 4,000 square feet of commercial space incentive)," he said. "Should we really be giving them an incentive to put it on the ground floor over community housing? If I was a developer, I’d love you for doing it, but you’re never going to get community housing."

Of the commercially zoned areas in Sun Valley, there are 60 acres in the Sun Valley Village and 25 acres at Elkhorn Village. The former Elkhorn Hotel property, now owned by C.G. Elkhorn, could be soonest to redevelop, and C.G. Elkhorn representatives were most vocal at the meeting.

Attorney Ned Williamson said his clients are concerned that requiring commercial space in Elkhorn could result in empty commercial space.

But Mayor Dave Wilson believes modest amounts of commercial space can continue to work.

"Remember, this is not just Elkhorn. This is Sun Valley," he said.

The council approved an 120-day extension of a moratorium on the processing of new applications for development projects in Elkhorn Village and Sun Valley Village. The moratorium proposal was put forth by city staff last December in response to a potential surge in development applications for commercial-zoned lands that propose only residential uses.

The moratorium will be repealed upon adoption of a new commercial core ordinance.


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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.