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Friday, July 9, 2004


Ketchum decides to swap downtown land

Deal avoids costly, uncertain litigation

Express Staff Writer

Rather than run the risk of costly and uncertain litigation, the Ketchum City Council voted Wednesday to swap downtown land with Wells Fargo Bank instead of using the power of condemnation.

Council president Randy Hall and Councilman Baird Gourlay voted to give Mayor Ed Simon the power to begin negotiating a deal with the bank, while Councilwoman Terry Tracy opposed the deal.

Put simply, the city would give up the so-called Town Center at the corner of Main and Fourth Street now housing the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce offices and visitors center in exchange for Wells Fargo’s vacant land south of Giacobbi Square now leased as a parking lot.

There’s a cost differential of about $121,000 between the properties’ values, although they’re roughly the same size at 11,000 square feet. The Town Center is valued at $1,232,000 while the bank’s land is valued at $1,353,000.

Wells Fargo, whose offices now are at 600 Sun Valley Road, would build a new banking facility on Main Street.

Councilwoman Terry, who pooh-poohed any notion that she had a sentimental attachment to the Town Center property, said her objection was to costs associated with the land swap. The Town Center once was Ketchum city hall.

Sentiment for the land swap, rather than condemnation, developed quickly when City Attorney Benjamin Worst pointed out that in a condemnation proceeding, the city would be liable for all appraisal and legal fees and then the final price placed on the land by a court.

He said the costs would be "significant," a fact not lost on a council dealing with tighter budgets.

Attorney Barry Luboviski, representing Wells Fargo, said a closing on the deal could be delayed until after Labor Day.

While the city has not specified how it would use the land across from Giacobbi Square eventually, it has been mentioned as a site for a new city hall as well as underground public parking.

Councilman Gourlay said he believes the present Wells Fargo property "has a lot more potential" for the city.

Giacobbi Square now pays Wells Fargo about $3,000 per month to lease the land for grade level free parking.


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