By MARK ESHMAN
A number of misguided concerns have surfaced about the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency’s proposed land exchange of the KURA-owned land at 211 East First Street for two privately held parcels at 611-691 Second Avenue, adjacent to a city-owned plot.
The land exchange is for the purpose of creating new community housing in Ketchum. After the KURA was denied tax-credit applications twice for the First Street location, making the project unfeasible on that land, the KURA issued a private-sector request for proposals for a land exchange. The proposal was public for 30 days, was advertised in the newspaper and was distributed to the Sun Valley Board of Realtors.
Only one written proposal was received and the KURA held a public meeting on July 15, 2013, regarding the process. Pursuant to Idaho statute, the sole response was considered in executive session to protect the privacy of the landowner in the case the KURA did not pursue the exchange. Four additional executive sessions were held to discuss the considerations of the land exchange.
At the KURA board meeting on Sept. 16, we directed all documents relating to the land exchange proposal be available to the public and they were subsequently posted on the KURA website. Claims that the KURA has attempted to keep this land exchange proposal out of the public eye is simply naivety on the part of those criticizing.
Among Ketchum’s citizenry’s
most valued priority time after time
is the urgent need for workforce housing
The property the KURA board is considering is in three parcels, of which one is owned by the city of Ketchum. The land would need to be consolidated and rezoned. There are a number of factors in favor of this property, including the possibility of more housing units due to the larger parcel size; the proximity to Hemingway School, Atkinson Park, the Pump Park, the Ketchum Post Office, the adjacent bike path and local bus routes; and substantially lower development costs. Let’s be clear: The KURA board is looking at this property in aggregate, with the city parcel added in, and with all three parcels rezoned to an appropriate zone. If aggregated and rezoned, the appraised value of the land is greater than the value of the KURA property. The appraised value of the property currently owned by KURA is $1,045,000 and the three parcels intended for community housing, if rezoned, equal $1,380,000. So we come out ahead, and achieve our housing goals.
We are keenly aware that along with creation of workforce housing inevitably comes passionate neighbors who, while they support it in concept, may not want it in their midst. We get that. We are under no illusions that whenever and wherever we propose workforce housing, we will be met by those who don’t want it in their neighborhood. There is no perfect solution.
It is still very early in the process. We conducted a public meeting on Monday, Sept. 30, where we took full public comment. If the board moves forward at our Monday, October 21, meeting to accept the Purchase and Sale Agreement, a rezone application would need to go through a public process including recommendations by the Planning & Zoning Commission and a final decision by the Ketchum City Council.
Our job as a volunteer board is to be prudent stewards of the tax increment receipts that accrue to the KURA. The taxpayers, through multiple planning sessions and through our charter, have set our mandate. Among Ketchum’s citizenry’s most valued priority time after time is the urgent need for workforce housing. This is a common theme throughout resort communities around the country as it becomes increasingly difficult to attract quality first responders, teachers, medical professionals, and young workers in general. The KURA values input from our community and welcomes residents to be part of the civic process as we work towards the goal of offering community housing to hard-working members of our community.
Mark Eshman is the chairman of the Ketchum URA board.