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Ketchum needs more staff to handle its backlog in building permits, city officials said this week.

It’s no secret that real estate sales have been booming in the Wood River Valley. Now, there’s solid evidence that Ketchum and Sun Valley are in the midst of a bona fide building boom.

In the first four months of 2021, the Ketchum Planning & Building Department processed $48 million in building permit valuation, the city reported. In the same period last year, the city processed $11.8 million in valuation. In the first four months of 2019—a year not impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—the city processed $22 million in building permit valuation.

In addition, the city reported, the Planning & Building Department has about $30 million in valuation of projects that have been submitted but haven’t yet been processed.

In 2020, the city processed nearly $77 million in permit valuation for the year, up from about $57 million in 2019.

The Planning and Zoning Commission currently has about 30 pending applications to review. Typically, that number is between five and 10 this time of year, the city reported.

The load has become so large, city officials said, that they need more staff to handle it all. On Monday, the City Council approved adding an associate planner position to the Planning & Building Department’s existing staff of a director, two planners and one planning technician.

“There are presently 23 planning permits that have yet to be reviewed or assigned to staff for processing,” a May 17 city staff report on the need for more staff states. “Permits requiring [Planning & Zoning Commission] review typically take 30-60 days from filing to commission review. Permits are now taking 90-120 days from filing to commission review.”

“The planners are working 24/7,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw told the City Council.

The city of Sun Valley has experienced a similar surge in development activity.

Through the first four months of 2021, Sun Valley processed 62 building permits, compared to 43 through the first four months of 2020. City Administrator Walt Femling has reported to the City Council that the Community Development Department is inundated with new development applications to process. Community Development Director Brittany Skelton told the council on May 6 that some 20 new single-family home projects in the town were about to be started.

In Blaine County last year, total real estate sales hit nearly $1.165 billion—a record high. In Sun Valley outside Elkhorn, 28 land parcels sold in 2020, an 833% increase over 2019.

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