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For the week of July 30 - August 5, 2003


Housing link to
hotels debated

Ketchum P&Z examines city priorities

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Planning and Zoning commissioners this week found themselves grappling with a difficult question that faces officials in most Rocky Mountain resort cities: Who should be responsible for providing affordable housing?

In a lengthy discussion Monday, July 28, commissioners specifically debated whether developers of new hotels in the city’s commercial core should be required to provide deed-restricted affordable housing.

"I think it’s a mistake," said Ketchum attorney and developer Brian Barsotti, who is currently seeking approval of an 80-room hotel on Main Street.

Several members of the P&Z agreed with Barsotti, noting that the city could effectively discourage hotel developments by making affordable housing a mandatory component.

The debate came as P&Z members considered a proposed set of amendments to the zoning code that would generally relax regulations governing hotel construction in the downtown area.

Under direction of the City Council to review hotel regulations, city staff earlier this month proposed a series of amendments to the Community Core zoning district code, including:

·  Allowing hotel roof lines to reach 47 feet under certain conditions, 7 feet more than the existing maximum.

·  Eliminating the provision for developers to apply for waivers to certain regulations through the planned-unit development process.

The proposed amendments are the product of a special committee of elected officials convened to examine issues brought forth during the city’s first review of Barsotti’s proposed Bald Mountain Lodge. Barsotti’s first proposal to build a 59-foot-high lodge at 151 Main St. was remanded back to the P&Z. Commissioners on July 14 recommended that the City Council approve a scaled-down design for the hotel, with no specific recommendation that the project should provide affordable housing.

In discussing the proposed amendments Monday, commissioners generally agreed to eliminate the process that allows hotel developers to apply for waivers to certain regulations through a PUD plan.

However, a discussion of other proposed changes to the zoning code prompted the question of whether the city should require affordable housing as a part of hotel developments.

Commissioners first agreed that a floor-area-ratio bonus automatically given to hotel proposals should be maintained. The bonus from an allowed 1.4 FAR to a 1.75 FAR essentially gives hotels in the CC zoning district a significant bonus in square footage—without any requirement that affordable housing be provided.

Other commercial developments in the CC zone can apply for the same bonus, but can be asked by the city to provide the equivalent of 40 percent of the bonus floor area in affordable housing.

Commissioners considered whether the city should require that hotel developers guarantee that the bonus floor area would be converted to affordable housing, if a future hotel project stopped operating as a true hotel.

Commissioner Rod Sievers argued that linking hotel proposals to affordable-housing requirements would discourage hotel developments—working against a widely agreed upon principal in City Hall that incentives for hotel development should be provided.

"I, for one, don’t mind telling the council this isn’t the place to start," Sievers said.

Commissioner Greg Strong agreed that adding an affordable-housing component to hotel regulations would effectively eliminate the incentives the city is offering to hotel developers.

Barsotti—whose existing application would not be affected by any new amendments—said a mandatory affordable-housing requirement for hotels would have a negative effect on financing hotel projects. "I am quite convinced that if you link housing and hotels … you’re not going to see another hotel in this town," he said.

Ketchum resident Jake Jacoby said the city should not favor hotel development, but instead should apply the same standards to all commercial developments in the downtown core.



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