Hot Dog Hill for 20 WF.jpg

The proposed development, rendered here, would stretch along Main Street from Fourth Street to Fifth Street.

A four-hour-long Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Monday night left a proposed large development on Main Street stalled once again after the developer entered into a “debate” with commissioners regarding their role in deciding which developments move forward in the city.

The 59,130-square-foot mixed-use building would stretch along Main Street from Fourth Street to Fifth Street, requiring demolishment of the building currently occupied by Formula Sports to make way for a four-story retail and residential structure with a 16-spot underground parking garage. The project is unusual for Ketchum, according to Senior City Planner Brittany Skelton, where there are only a handful of buildings that cover an entire city block, including The Community Library and Atkinsons’ Market.

In his third appearance before the P&Z for pre-application design review, developer Chris Ensign presented an updated version of the proposed building. Ensign said he was having a hard time distinguishing what the commissioners wanted changed in the design. Vice Chairman Mattie Mead, who was sitting in for absent Chairman Neil Morrow, said the new designs looked better but still needed work.

Ensign presented a computer-augmented drone video, which he noted cost $7,000 to produce, of what the proposed building would look like in the city’s existing surroundings. (That video can be found on YouTube at bit.ly/30p5uLs.) However, the commissioners continued to be unsatisfied with the project in its current design, saying the massive building looks repetitive in its structure.

“This is a big part of downtown Ketchum,” Commissioner Tim Carter said.

While Carter acknowledged that the developer has a right to build on his property, he said expectations are high since the Main Street locale will have a big impact on the character of the city. While Carter and the other commissioners applauded the updated version of the design, which incorporates more brick and undulation—a nod, Carter said, to the city’s “industrial past”—Ensign said he continued to be befuddled as to what the commissioners needed to see to give their stamp of approval.

“Right now, we’re frustrated,” Ensign said of himself and his design team, adding that they feel as though they are chasing the opinions of the commissioners rather than simply following city code.

Ultimately, City Administrator and acting Director of Planning and Building Suzanne Frick interrupted what she called a “debate” between the commissioners and the developer and encouraged Ensign to “listen to what they are saying.”

According to Frick, the project is not yet in a form that it can be presented to the community, even though it had been presented during two public meetings in January and March. Though the agenda item was listed for Monday night’s meeting under “public hearings and communications from staff,” it was a non-hearing item. According to Assistant City Administrator Lisa Enourato, city code does not require public hearings for pre-application design reviews, but the commission has the option to open them to public meetings when there are members of the public who wish to comment. No public comment on this application was taken Monday night.

“We’re not ready to go into the formal public hearing process,” Frick said during the meeting.

Ultimately, Ensign said, he wants to work with the commissioners to see this project through. That will take time, Carter said, as the commissioners aim to find a balance between accepting the sizeable structure and maintaining the character of the town.

“You’re just going to have to listen to us talk for a little bit,” Carter told Ensign.

Mead also added that some residents may have an “emotional connection to the location,” because of the history of the Formula Sports building and because the hill—commonly known as “Hot Dog Hill” for of Irving’s Red Hots’ stand, which stations itself there in the summer—is also a prime parade-watching location during Wagon Days.

No date was set for the P&Z to reassess the pre-application design review. Frick said she would provide information to Ensign to begin considering a community workshop as an option to move the development forward with more input from the public.

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