A short-term ordinance drafted to protect historical structures in central Ketchum has gained approval from the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and will now be considered by the City Council.
P&Z commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve—with several amendments—a draft city law that identifies 26 historically significant structures in the downtown area and establishes a process for special review of planned demolition or alteration to those structures.
The draft ordinance is scheduled to be considered by the City Council on Jan. 4, 2021. Mayor Neil Bradshaw and city officials aim to have the proposed ordinance approved by the City Council and enacted before Jan. 17, the expiration date of a 90-day emergency ordinance banning the demolition of any buildings on a longer list of historical structures in the city. The City Council approved and enacted the emergency ordinance on Oct. 19.
The emergency ordinance states that an “imminent threat to historical and culturally significant structures in the Community Core” necessitated the adoption of a temporary moratorium on the demolition of any of 82 buildings identified in a 2005 survey. In a report on the initiative this fall, the city stated that “development inquiries have occurred on multiple properties” on the 2005 list and that other properties on the list “have recently sold and owners may not be aware of the significance of the existing structure.”
After enacting the emergency ordinance, the city commenced a process to gather public opinion on the initiative and draft the interim ordinance, all before the temporary demolition ban expires. The city hired consulting firm Logan Simpson, conducted public surveys and organized joint workshop discussions with the City Council and the P&Z.
One path the city could take, Ketchum officials have said, is the implementation of an interim ordinance—to be in effect for one year—followed by a permanent ordinance designed to protect older, historically significant buildings.
The draft ordinance proposes to:
- Establish a new, 2020 building survey that designates 26 properties as historically significant and qualified for special city review under the law.
- Establish an application process, review process and review criteria for proposed exterior alterations or demolition of buildings on the list.
- Establish and appoint members of a Historic Preservation Commission to govern the review processes. The panel would consist of two to three members of the P&Z and two to three citizens who have some expertise in history or historical preservation.
- Establish maintenance standards for buildings on the list.
Buildings on the list include:
- The Isaac Lewis First National Bank building on Main Street, which has been renovated and is now a showroom for the Rocky Mountain Hardware business.
- The Lewis-Lemon General Store building on Main Street, which is now the headquarters of the Sun Valley Culinary Institute.
- The Comstock-Clark Mercantile building, at the corner of Main Street and Sun Valley Road, the site of Italian restaurant Enoteca.
- The Horace Lewis House on East Avenue, the location of The Elephant’s Perch sports store.
- The city’s Forest Service Park complex.
- The Ed Williams House on East Avenue, the location of the Ketchum Grill restaurant.
- The circa 1882 Bonning Cabin, located in a city park on Fifth Street near City Hall.
- The buildings that house Michel’s Christiania restaurant, the Pioneer Saloon, the Casino bar and Vintage restaurant.
The review processes for the 26 structures put forth in the draft ordinance would be conducted in addition to the city’s established review processes for development in the Community Core district.
Two citizens commented on the draft ordinance during the P&Z’s public hearing on Tuesday.
Rebecca Bundy, an architect and member of the city’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, told the P&Z she thought the city’s survey process for gathering public opinion on the initiative was not entirely objective.
“It seems pretty arbitrary,” she said.
Architect Travis Kilmer told the P&Z he thought the process of developing the draft ordinance “happened really quickly” and the proposed criteria for reviewing projects planned for the buildings on the list “seems very vague right now.”
The city received 162 responses to an initial community survey in No-vember. In the survey, 76 percent of respondents said they “strongly agree” or “agree” that they are “worried about historically significant buildings either being demolished or significantly changed,” the city reported.
Commissioner Brenda Moczygemba expressed concerns about some of the language in the draft ordinance and whether it matched some of the intentions expressed during workshop meetings between the P&Z and City Council. Commissioner Jennifer Cosgrove said she thought the matter of adopting an interim ordinance might warrant more discussion.
In the end, the commissioners agreed to approve the draft ordinance and send it to the City Council for consideration, with amendments that include allowing the city to modify the list of 26 structures, specifically allowing maintenance of buildings and developing a map of the location of the 26 sites.
Citizens can get additional information on the city’s initiative at www.ketchumidaho.org, on the Community Conversations page.