Friday, September 8, 2006

Council approves downtown plan

Express Staff Writer

Only a few people were in attendance at the Tuesday, Sept. 5, meeting when the Ketchum City Council approved the city's downtown master plan, but they burst into a round of applause at the document's completion.

"This is a pretty major move, and a lot of work," said Council President Baird Gourlay.

The plan, in the making since October 2005, lays out a system of city-guided initiatives to rebalance Ketchum's physical environment, housing and economy.

Ensuring a pedestrian-friendly downtown is among the central concepts. Aspects of that could include a heritage corridor along Fourth Street, a bike route, public art and a more coordinated transportation system.

The council unanimously approved the master plan by resolution after making a few changes in the past weeks.

"I'm pleased with this," said Councilwoman Terry Tracy. "I hope it compliments our comprehensive plan. They're closer than they were two weeks ago."

The city contracted with economic development consultant Tom Hudson, of Moscow-based The Hudson Company, to create the plan's framework.

Citizens were invited to participate in town hall meetings, a DesignFest and public hearings.

"It was what I considered to be a very modern process," Gourlay said.

Hudson is now under contract to head the city's Community Development Corporation, which will select projects and seek funding for their completion.

Ketchum is still under an interim ordinance that prohibits all residential construction in the downtown, Residential-High Density and Tourist zones. The moratorium could be lifted once regulatory aspects of the master plan are enacted.

Those aspects are under review separately. The Planning & Zoning Commission is finalizing its recommendations this week and will send comments to the council for its review.

"I'm personally very excited," said Councilman Steven Shafran.

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