In Ketchum, some familiar things stayed about the same in 2019—the Big Hitch Parade and Trailing of the Sheep marked the annual transition into slack season, as always, and hot topics like affordable housing, parking and tourism continued to spark debate.

Other developments brought change. Here’s a look at five key headlines from 2019 that are sure to continue making the news this year:


Gateway hotels advance

While the future is still up in the air for both the entryway Ketchum Tribute and Harriman hotels, each made headway as it moved through the City Council pipeline in 2019.

The Marriott-brand Ketchum Tribute Hotel, first pitched as the Ketchum Boutique Hotel, raised its fair share of debate after a preliminary hearing in July. At its first official hearing in October (which also marked the largest council meeting turnout of the year), public complaints about traffic congestion and disruption to city character waged for hours. Perhaps most contentious was the city’s possible granting of four waivers of zoning infringements, like building higher than the allotted 35 feet, to Provo, Utah,-based developing firm PEG Cos.

Up against an overwhelming adapt-or-leave pressure from the public, the City Council hit “pause” twice on the Tribute’s first application hearing—on Oct. 7, then on Dec. 2—electing to continue deliberation on the hotel’s conditional-use permit, planned-unit development and development agreement applications. But on Dec. 2, it became clear that the Tribute had gained a bit more traction in the community since undergoing a series of architectural revisions that cut the building’s mass and height. (As currently proposed, the Tribute will stand four stories at River Street with its central portion reaching 63 feet.)

Future Tribute Hotel discussions and open houses this month and next month will likely address traffic concerns. To help alleviate some of the rush-hour bottleneck that’s sure to come with the hotel, PEG Cos. has been working with the Idaho Transportation Department to add a left-hand turn lane at the intersection of Main and River streets and install a HAWK pedestrian-safety system, though details still need to be hashed out.

    Also in the news this year was Developer Jack Bariteau’s long-awaited Harriman Hotel, which on Dec. 9 finally demonstrated proof of financing. The hotel (formerly the Auberge) had bumbled through an 11-year series of missed deadlines and city-granted building permit extensions, and public reception in early December was undeniably chilly. But by closing out a $60 million loan with Mosaic, a large funding provider for the hospitality industry, Bariteau was able to reach the finish line this winter—meaning the “hole in the ground” along Main Street should begin to disappear in 2020.


Fire Department looks ahead to change

Now under the leadership of Chief Bill McLaughlin, the Ketchum Fire Department has much to look forward to in the coming years.     

At the start of 2019, the department’s East Avenue fire station was looking at a bleak future. Rife with toxic fumes, the building was found to be unable to withstand damage from an earthquake or fire, and several firefighters noted cracks in the walls, abandoned staircases and diesel-fuel condensation on the walls.

But on Nov. 5, Ketchum voters approved Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s $11.5 million bond measure for a new fire station. (The bond barely passed with a 66.7 percent approval rate, a hair above the two-thirds majority it needed.) Twenty-two sites for the new station were evaluated, including vacant land at the water treatment plant, but city administrators ultimately found the dirt lot north of the Wood River YMCA best with its quick access to state Highway 75 and Warm Springs Road.

Following the bond election, a longstanding tussle between the YMCA and city began to heat up as YMCA board members worried that the gym could lose essential parking spots. A long road of back-and-forth negotiation between the Y and the city resulted in a parking agreement that granted the Y continued access to parking on the city-owned “Park and Ride” lot along Saddle Road.

In mid-December, a 3-1 City Council vote officially pinpointed the location of the new station at the Saddle Road site. Construction is expected to begin in the spring or early summer.


Renovations celebrate old and new

Following a two-year, $13.5 million renovation project, Community Library guests can now access dozens of new revamped study and gathering spaces. The Community Library renovation also resulted in a greater focus on nature. From Hemingway’s Veranda or the Treehouse Room, views of Baldy can be enjoyed, and a contemplative rock garden and courtyard feature native pines and Rocky Mountain stone.

Across town, another renovation is underway at the Sun Valley Culinary Institute, set to open in Ketchum this winter at the Greenhow and Rumsey building. Inside the historic space—which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places—members of the public will soon be able to attend everything from risotto-making classes to demonstrations by celebrity chefs. A yearlong, federally certified apprenticeship program will also offer training to a dozen up-and-coming culinary students under the tutelage of award-winning chef Chris Koetke.

L.I. district sees change

In July, the City Council voted unanimously to permit developers to build up to 58 feet in the light-industrial district if they include deed-restricted affordable housing units.

Two months later, city officials found that dozens of light-industrial residents had eschewed rising living and commuting costs by adding sleeping and cooking quarters to their workspaces. In response to the evasion of residential and building regulations—most notably fire code violations—nearly 30 cease-and-desist letters were mailed to L.I. district property owners.

Most of those who received the letters have been in communication with Planning and Building officials, the city reported, and many properties have become city-compliant. Some property owners chose to relocate, however, after being faced with thousands of dollars of renovations.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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