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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — May 28, 2004

Arts and Entertainment

Sun Valley Co. touts River Run plan

Annexation application could come this spring

A long range plan by Sun Valley Co. to develop a mix of hotel, residential and commercial structures at the River Run base area of Bald Mountain would not follow in the footsteps of the many dense developments at mountain-resort villages throughout the West.

Becky Zimmermann, a planning consultant from Colorado-based Design Workshop, said Sun Valley Co.'s plan to de-velop River Run would establish the area as a "portal" to Ketchum and Bald Mountain. Photo by David N. Seelig

That was the overriding message Wednesday, May 26, as Sun Valley Co. General Manager Wally Huffman and Colorado-
based planning consultant Becky Zimmermann presented details on the company’s master plan to develop River Run and an assortment of other properties in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.

In a 90-minute presentation at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum, Huffman and Zimmermann stressed that Sun Valley Co. owner Earl Holding envisions River Run as a mountain village that would complement—not compete with—the established community in central Ketchum.

"Mr. Holding’s vision for this property is something very different," Zimmermann said. "It is not intended to be a destination in itself."

Huffman concurred, stating that he believes Sun Valley Co. should seek to benefit over the long term from its main attraction today: the region’s beauty and open spaces.

"I think our economic future is tied to the idea that less is more," Huffman said.

The presentation Wednesday was essentially an addendum to an April 6 unveiling of Sun Valley Co.’s long-term master plan for developing some 2,800 acres of company land in the Sun Valley region.

The master plan has been characterized as a 50-year blueprint for what Sun Valley Co. properties would look like at full buildout, if local government agencies find a means to approve the plan and lock it in.

"It may be a 50-year plan, it may be an 80-year plan, it may be a 40-year plan," Huffman said.

The initial unveiling of the master plan took place in Sun Valley and focused largely on the company’s properties in and around Sun Valley Village.

The Ketchum presentation was designed to concentrate on Sun Valley Co.’s plans for approximately 160 acres of private land at River Run, immediately southwest of downtown Ketchum.

The land is located in Blaine County but lies within the city of Ketchum’s designated area-of-city-impact boundaries, meaning that the city can ultimately exert control over development in the area.

"In order to develop it, we have to annex it into the city of Ketchum," Huffman said.

Sun Valley Co. in the next month plans to submit a formal application to annex approximately 100 of the 160 acres at River Run into Ketchum, company representatives said.

Specifically, the Sun Valley Co. master plan for River Run includes:

·  A new 200-room luxury hotel immediately southeast of the existing River Run Lodge.

·  A new 1,500-space parking structure immediately east of the proposed hotel site.

·  A park/soccer field on the northern edge of the parcel.

·  Approximately 30,000 square feet of retail space.

·  Up to 478 new residential units scattered throughout the higher elevations of the property, concentrated mainly at the site of the upper River Run parking lot, west of Third Avenue. Included in the count are approximately 80 employee-housing units that would be reserved for Sun Valley Co. employees.

The River Run plan calls for a total of approximately 700 development units, including all housing units and hotel rooms.

Zimmermann reiterated earlier statements that some base villages recently built in other Rocky Mountain resorts include upwards of 1,000 development units and 150,000 square feet of commercial space.

In addition to the village, the master plan calls for possibly installing a gondola from central Ketchum, near the post office, to a new gondola station east of the River Run Lodge. The company master plan also proposes a gondola from Sun Valley Village to River Run Plaza.

Huffman said a gondola traversing from Sun Valley Village to River Run—deemed a long-term project—would cost approximately $8 million to install.

A more likely near-term project is construction of a new two-stage gondola from River Run to the Lookout Summit of Bald Mountain, with a loading station at Roundhouse restaurant. That project would cost an estimated $10 million, Huffman said.

Huffman said Sun Valley Co. has not determined the costs of implementing the proposed master plan, largely because much of it is conceptual.

Based on current construction costs, the proposed 336 multi-family units at River Run would alone cost in the range of $100 million. A 200-room hotel would cost approximately $80 million.

Huffman said he expects the annexation process to raise "a litany of questions" about the company’s development plans for the River Run site.

At the same time, he said, city officials should consider that the proposed developments at River Run would boost the city’s tax base and create scores of new jobs.

City planners and legislators have said they intend to look closely at the impacts of the annexation but did not voice any specific concerns Wednesday.

Randy Hall, Ketchum City Council president, asked Huffman to outline the company’s development priorities.

The first priority, Huffman said, is construction of a new 100- to 150-room hotel in Sun Valley Village, followed by new multi-family residential developments at River Run. The third priority is construction of a new 9-hole golf course on the company’s "Gun Club" property in Sun Valley.

Low on the priority list, Huffman said, is a new development on approximately 40 acres at the Warm Springs base area of Bald Mountain. Sun Valley Co. has tentatively proposed 175 residential units for the site.


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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.