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Wednesday, May 26, 2004


Simplot parcel plan is multi-faceted

Owners want to trade development density for streets

Express Staff Writer

The owners of the Simplot Lot—the largest vacant land parcel in the Ketchum city core—have filed an application to subdivide and develop the high-profile property.

Plans for the 3.8-acre parcel west of the Ketchum Post Office were submitted May 10 by architect James Ruscitto and real-estate broker Dick Fenton, who have in the last year drafted a master development plan for the site.

At issue is one of Ketchum’s most visible—and valuable—land parcels.

The Tourist-zoned Simplot parcel covers two city blocks between Second and Third avenues and Fourth and Sixth streets. The property is owned by Gay and Scott Simplot, members of the family that founded the Boise-based JR Simplot Company, an international agribusiness corporation.

The multi-faceted proposal submitted by Ruscitto and Fenton ultimately envisions developing the property with a mix of market-rate and community housing, civic uses, parks and commercial space.

Specifically, the project representatives have requested that the city rezone the western half of the property and approve a development agreement that strictly limits the building envelopes and uses on the site.

In what is likely to be the most controversial aspect of the plan, the applicants have asked the city to vacate two platted, undeveloped roadways on the parcel, including a portion of Fifth Street.

In the application, Ruscitto and Fenton claim that the west end of Fifth Street and an alley that would dissect the property from north to south "are no longer necessary for public uses."

The primary aspects of the proposed development plan include:

  • Permitting development of the west half of the property with no more than 30 duplex housing units. The area would be downzoned to accommodate only residential uses.

  • Developing three large Tourist-zoned lots on the eastern half of the property.

  • Installing a public transit terminal across from the post office.

  • Redeveloping and rerouting a public bicycle path that courses through the property.

  • Closing off with landscaping—but not vacating—a section of Third Avenue adjacent to the project.

Project representatives have expressed an interest in selling a lot on the southeast corner of the site to the Sun Valley Center for the Arts for development of a new organization headquarters.

The other two lots have been designed to accommodate two mixed-use structures, incorporating commercial and residential units.

However, the proposed lot on the northeast corner of the site would be offered to the city as a potential site for a new city hall.

Fenton said the proposed development agreement would limit the amount of commercial space that could be built on the three lots that would compose the eastern half of the site—along Second Avenue.

"What we’re trying to do is make sure that if there aren’t public buildings on those lots there are mixed-use buildings."

The plan calls for including an unspecified number of deed-restricted community-housing units in the buildings along Second Avenue, Fenton said.

The application submitted this month does not propose to construct any buildings on the site.

The owners, Fenton said, have not determined if they would develop the property themselves, develop it as part of a joint venture, or sell it with an approved development plan.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider the plan on June 28.


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