Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Starbucks’ plan delayed—coming soon

URA refuses public comment from critic


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

The basic terms of the Urban Renewal Agency's lease agreement with a Starbucks franchise was supposed to be laid out in a letter of intent for Monday's URA meeting. However, the letter of intent to lease 1,900 square feet of the visitor center building on Sun Valley Road wasn't ready for the meeting, which was scheduled specifically for that purpose.

Instead, the URA set an impromptu meeting for Thursday, April 21, at noon in Ketchum City Hall to review the finished letter, intended to outline the basic lease terms, which would be expounded in the actual lease.

Keith Perry, owner of Perry's restaurant in Ketchum, asked if the URA would take public comment on the lease before signing it with the Starbucks' franchisee, Cairde Group. Or, Perry asked, would it only allow people to state their opinions "after it's a done deal," implying that the URA picked Cairde Group's proposal before hearing public opinion.

The URA board members said that when the lease is drafted, they'd take public comment before signing it. The URA also took public comment Monday, but board members made it clear that all members of the public aren't allowed to speak.

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URA Chair and Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall prohibited resident Jima Rice from speaking during public comment Monday. Rice is a member of the Ketchum Business Group, which put in a proposal for the visitor center space but lost out to Starbucks on April 12.

"You just asked for public comment, so I'm wondering why I cannot comment," Rice repeatedly asked.

"We're going to move on, Jima," responded Hall, but Rice didn't back down.

URA Board Member Larry Helzel interjected, saying he told Hall to not take her comments. Helzel opened the meeting by asserting that if negotiations with Starbucks fell through, he would not negotiate with the URA's second choice, the Ketchum Business Group, due to Rice's weekly business newsletter.

Following the URA's April 12 decision to lease to Starbucks, Rice wrote that the URA showed "despicable behavior," the meeting was "abominable" and she was wrong about some "hidden potential for good that could be coaxed out of the Urban Renewal Agency."

Helzel said that if the situation arises, he wouldn't negotiate with the Ketchum Business Group unless the group of about 50 business owners "disassociates itself" from Rice and her comments.

"I can't control 50 to 60 people," Perry said.

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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