Wednesday, June 20, 2012

URA renews support for housing project

Community Development Corp. will reapply for tax-credit funding


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Despite protests from some downtown Ketchum property owners, the city's urban renewal agency board unanimously signed on Monday to revised lease terms for an affordable-housing project on a property it owns a block off Main Street.

The Ketchum Community Development Corp. and GMD Development are hoping to develop an all-residential project at 211 E. First St., at the corner of Washington Avenue.

The CDC and GMD requested revisions to the option-to-lease agreement in advance of a Sept. 7 deadline to apply for tax credit financing. The federal pass-through funds are administered in Idaho by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association.

CDC Executive Director Jon Duval said signing of the lease "allows us to move forward with applying to the IHFA."

The new option to lease provides for a 65-year lease term with a total lease payment of $1. The previous lease did not specify a lease term or a payment, though the CDC had indicated it would pay about $400,000 under the tax-credit standards in effect at the time. However, Duval said the amount of money available under the program has been drastically reduced since then.

The building would be owned by a limited-liability company composed of the CDC as the managing member and GMD, the developer, as a member.

"Using the site for which it was purchased is a fulfillment of a promise," said URA Commissioner Randy Hall.

However, Bob Crosby, government affairs director for the Sun Valley Board of Realtors, urged the board to study other sites.

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"This is not the right block for a project without ground-floor retail," he said. "There has to be a better place for this project."

Real estate broker Jed Gray agreed, saying a project with a retail component would be a better fit for the area.

URA Chair Mark Eshman countered that other considerations should be at play.

"The highest and best use of the property may not be dollars and cents," he said.

Commissioner Trish Wilson said she supported the project because a key mission of the URA is to provide affordable housing.

Last year, the CDC and GMD sought tax credits from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association for the project but did not receive funding through that program, partly because the original option to lease did not meet certain criteria, according to a staff report.

If the CDC and GMD receive tax credit funding, they hope to begin construction in June 2013, with completion by the following spring.

If there are no tax credits awarded, the option to lease becomes null and void, said Lisa Horowitz, the URA's community and economic development director.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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