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Wednesday, May 12, 2004


Ketchum Council starts to think big

Legislators wrangle with list of priorities

Express Staff Writer

After spending several months brooding over an imposing list of priority projects, Ketchum City Council members have started to wrestle with some of the most important issues facing their ever-evolving resort city.

In a special meeting Monday, May 10, council members debated a collection of hot topics that included affordable housing, capital improvements and the forthcoming 2004-2005 fiscal-year budget.

All of the items discussed were derived from a list of what the legislators consider to be the seven most important issues for city officials to take action on.

While the council took no formal action Monday on any of the issues, the meeting just might have been a watershed occasion for the city and its residents. Issues that once seemed destined for the perennial back burner at City Hall were brought to the fore for discussion and action.

The meeting this week is expected to be one of many at which the council sets aside time to specifically address issues that have nagged city government for months, even years.

The seven major issues addressed Monday were distilled from a daunting list of dozens of city projects identified last year and earlier this year.

The list, which the council expects to review on a regular basis, includes:

  • Preparing to handle two anticipated major land-annexation applications, for Sun Valley Co. property at the base of Bald Mountain and a large tract of land at Warm Springs Ranch, owned by Sun Valley Ventures.

  • Managing the city budget and exploring ways to increase revenues.

  • Addressing parking and transportation needs in the city.

  • Developing a capital improvements plan, in part to establish new sidewalks and a new City Hall.

  • Maintaining and creating affordable recreation.

  • Negotiating a long-term franchise agreement with communications giant Cox Communications to provide cable television within Ketchum.

  • Creating new incentives for developers to build affordable housing.

Although council members showed optimism that several of the priority items will be easy to address, at least one expressed doubt that the city’s major issues can be solved overnight.

"It’s going to take my lifetime to check off most of these," quipped Councilwoman Terry Tracy.

However, some progress was apparent Monday.

City officials announced that they have negotiated with Sun Valley Co. to present in Ketchum the company’s plan to annex into the city some 160 acres at the River Run base area of Bald Mountain. The meeting is set for May 26.

As for the city budget, council members said they are hopeful that the process can be streamlined compared to last summer, when they were forced to slash requests for proposed increases in departmental budgets.

"I’ve already told the department heads, ‘Leave your dreams outside of the budget requests,’" Mayor Ed Simon said.

In a review of transportation concerns, Planning Director Harold Moniz announced that a long-awaited study of Ketchum’s transportation needs will be presented to the City Council Monday, May 17.

"There are a lot of projects for the council to consider in the next several years," Moniz said.

As for capital improvements, the city has started to take action on establishing new sidewalks and street lighting but has not developed or funded a comprehensive capital improvement plan.

On Monday, City Council President Randy Hall said he wants to see the city take action on building a new Ketchum City Hall. He objected strongly to seeing the city spend money on the existing City Hall to keep it operational.

"I hate to spend all this money on a building that I think sometime in the next three to five years is going to be scrapped," Hall said, equating the process to "putting lipstick on a pig."

Much of the discussion focused on affordable housing.

While the city has been able to ensure through negotiations that a limited number of deed-restricted affordable housing units are developed, housing officials have said the demand far exceeds the supply.

Councilwoman Christina Potters said she is worried that Ketchum’s youth will not be able to afford housing in the city.

"How are they going to get into the market?" she asked.

Council members and city officials did indicate this week that they are willing to investigate whether the city should make the development of affordable housing mandatory for certain types of building projects.


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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.