A proposed affordable housing project called Washington Place on land owned by the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency has recently been opposed by the Sun Valley Board of Realtors, but the URA remains solidly in favor of the development.
The project would be a four-story building at the northeast corner of First Street and Washington Avenue in Ketchum. It would provide 23 rental apartments.
The Board of Realtors’ opposition to the project was voiced in the form of an ad printed in the Nov. 7 edition of the Idaho Mountain Express. The ad states that the project would cost $500 per livable square foot, “far in excess of what many top quality single family homes cost.” The ad also states that the URA did not allow time for an alternate proposal to be evaluated, that the project will be built without providing adequate parking for the its inhabitants and that it violates Ketchum’s retail core codes because it will not provide retail space on the ground floor.
At a URA meeting Monday, Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall, a URA board member, responded to the ad, calling it “not true, not true, not true.”
On Tuesday, the URA released a response to the Board of Realtors’ concerns. The response states that the project will cost less than $100 per livable square foot. It also states that the URA and the project’s developers did consider an alternate location, but that the property was sold and the buyer was not interested in discussing construction of an affordable housing project there.
Furthermore, the response states that Ketchum zoning code does not require that affordable housing projects provide parking, but that the proposed project will provide 21 spaces—only two less than the proposed number of apartments.
“That property was bought for affordable housing since day one.”
Lastly, the response states that the city’s zoning code does not require ground-floor retail in west Ketchum, except for properties on Main Street.
In an interview, Hall said the project has been under consideration since the URA bought the land in 2006 and that the proposed development has undergone significant public vetting and approval. He said Ketchum’s current elected officials all ran on pro-affordable-housing platforms, and he considers that a mandate from the city’s voters to promote affordable housing in Ketchum.
“There was never any ‘hide the ball’ here,” he said. “That property was bought for affordable housing since day one.”
Hall said he respects the Board of Realtors’ right to disagree with the project, but “not in respect to six years of public process” that the Urban Renewal Agency and the project’s developers have been through.
He said affordable housing is important for the diversity of Ketchum’s economy, and that it’s good for the city to keep its workers living within city limits so the money they earn stays in Ketchum.
The project’s developers are the Ketchum Community Development Corp. and Greg Dunfield—who also developed Northwood Place, a recently completed, similar project on Saddle Road near the YMCA.
Hall said Dunfield and the Community Development Corp. have applied for Idaho Finance and Housing Association low-income tax-credit financing to help fund the project’s construction. He said the Housing Association will determine whether to award that financing this month, and contended that this is why the Board of Realtors is opposing the project now.
“It’s an attempt to influence the Housing Association’s decision so they won’t finance the project,” he said. “The Sun Valley Board of Realtors is an important part of our community. Typically, they stay pretty quiet on political issues. Why now? It concerns me that there’s more here than meets the eye.”
Board of Realtors President Jed Gray did not reply to a message seeking comment by press deadline Tuesday.
Hall said the project will not be built if the Housing Association does not approve the requested financing.
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