After more than a year of discussion and debate, the Ketchum City Council on Monday cast the final vote to approve sweeping changes to the city’s three light-industrial districts.
The council voted unanimously to approve the third reading of the ordinance, which permits developers to build four- and five-story buildings that can go up to 48-58 feet in height, provided they include deed-restricted affordable housing in their projects.
Monday’s meeting was the culmination of a process that began when Mayor Neil Bradshaw took office in January 2018. He launched a push to revise the regulations for the light-industrial areas, which sit on the west side of state Highway 75 north of the Community Core. His goal was to increase the supply of housing in the L.I.
The proposed changes required months of work before the Planning and Zoning Commission in 2018, and the commissioners recommended one version last fall.
The ordinance approved Monday goes beyond the commissioners’ recommendation, particularly on building height.
Buildings can be 58 feet tall on Northwood Way, just south of the Sun Valley Community School dormitory and extending down to where the road curves off of Lewis Street. Other parts of the L.I. can have buildings up to 48 feet tall.
The boost in height requires a tradeoff in community housing. Developers that propose a fourth- and fifth-story building must have a qualifying ground-floor L.I. use. If they are planning to sell the housing units, a minimum of two-thirds of the total square footage must be deed-restricted community housing.
A four-story building must include at least 25 percent of the gross floor area as L.I., and a five-story building must have at least 20 percent. Seventy-five percent of a four-story building and 80 percent of a five-story building can be residential.
The units will be a minimum of 400 square feet. In the first and second L.I. districts, the units can’t exceed a maximum of 2,000 square feet or go beyond two bedrooms.
The mean average of all the units can’t go beyond 1,000 square feet.
“Doing nothing would the wrong way to go,” Bradshaw said Monday. “This is a big change. We’ve gone through an extensive process. It says that it’s our third reading. It feels like it’s more like our sixth.”
The debate moved opponents and supporters to address the council.
Jack Kueneman, representing a consortium of property owners along Northwood Way, said the ordinance was misguided and would ensure the displacement of existing companies in the L.I.
“The light-industrial purpose of the area will be severely compromised,” Kueneman said. “I just don’t think you’ll have this light-industrial area. I just don’t think it’s thought through.”
But Brian Barsotti, owner of a property on Northwood Way north of the Community School dormitory, said the need for housing trumps the need for light-industrial. He said his property has been vacant for years, and would have been ideal for light-industrial development if the demand existed.
“If there was demand for light-industrial in Ketchum, we would have built it,” Barsotti said. “The reality is we need housing. We need housing more than light-industrial.”
Harry Griffith of Sun Valley Economic Development said the most recent economic recession caused a major change in Ketchum’s light-industrial areas. Companies left and will not return, he said.
“Light-industrial is not coming back,” Griffith said. “It’s changed. It’s moved down valley. It’s moved out of state.”
Councilwoman Amanda Breen said the ordinance was a good start.
“We cannot make something perfect,” Breen said. “I think it’s a really good start. What company can move here if they can’t find a place for their employees to live?”
Councilman Jim Slanetz said the city should test the ordinance’s provisions, rather than continue to study and debate the issue.
“It doesn’t make sense to do a study,” Slanetz said. “You kind of have to throw it out there. Some vibrancy in there would be good.”