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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 20 - 26, 2003


Ketchum hotel review ends in stalemate

Council schedules decisive vote for Sept. 2

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum City Council this week failed to reach a decision on the proposed 80-room Bald Mountain Lodge, after the two members presiding over the application review found themselves in an unrelenting stalemate.

After a nearly three-hour review Monday, Aug. 18, of the hotel application put forth by local developer Brian Barsotti, council members Randy Hall and Maurice Charlat finally agreed to continue the proceedings on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

Councilwoman Christina Potters, who was absent on Monday, is expected to sit on the panel during the Sept. 2 meeting. Councilman Baird Gourlay has recused himself from review of the hotel application because of a potential conflict of interest.

Mayor Ed Simon on Tuesday said the council at the Sept. 2 meeting will likely issue a decisive vote on the long-debated hotel proposal. "I think it’s time," Simon said, noting that he believes the outcome will not be influenced by Potters’ return to the council. "The swing vote will obviously be Randy (Hall)," he said.

At the end of a lengthy public hearing Monday, Hall and Charlat agreed that the 84,650-square-foot hotel project is worthy of city approval, but were divided on whether the conditions of approval were adequately defined.

Charlat insisted the council abandon its agenda timeline to work through a set of 17 standards of evaluation it is required to consider before rendering a vote. "I think justice delayed is justice denied," he said, sympathetic to frustrations expressed by Barsotti that the proposed hotel had been scrutinized at 13 previous city meetings.

However, Hall insisted that Barsotti return with a city-approved written agreement to provide a minimum of five employee-housing units for the project. He also requested additional assurances that the project—planned to cover an entire city block at 151 Main Street—will not significantly deter traffic flow on Main Street and First Street.

"I’m not ready to approve it tonight," he declared.

Charlat doggedly demanded that Hall accept his request to review the conditions of approval. During the standoff, Charlat once prepared to issue a motion to approve the project, but backed off when it became apparent there would be no second to advance it.

"I believe this has dragged on way too long," he said. "Now is the time."

Hall stood firm, indicating that he would likely vote to approve the project if his demand for affordable housing was met. He noted that he is in favor of granting Barsotti three waivers to city zoning regulations, including one that will allow the hotel to exceed the city’s maximum building height by seven feet.

Barsotti told the council he is willing to commit to providing at least five employee-housing units, but unequivocally stated he cannot afford to deed-restrict the units under the guidelines of the Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority. "I’m not trying to put a gun to anybody’s head," he said. "I’m just trying to look at economic realities."

Barsotti before and during the meeting objected to the concept of the city requiring affordable housing as a part of the project. In an Aug. 14 letter to the city, Barsotti noted that the city’s regulations for hotel development in the downtown core do not mandate that new hotels provide workforce housing.

Simon on Tuesday said he agrees with Barsotti’s argument. "Housing is not a component of the ordinance for (planned-unit development) hotels," he said. "I believe we have to follow the existing ordinance."

The proposal considered by the City Council Monday was a scaled-down version of a hotel plan that the panel remanded back to the Planning and Zoning Commission in January. Hall was also considered the swing vote in that application review.

Twenty-eight of the approximately 70 members of the public present Monday commented on the project, 20 of whom voiced their support.

"If not this, what?" asked Ketchum business owner Mike Turzian. "This type of hotel in downtown Ketchum is obviously something that is missing."



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