The Ketchum City Council on Monday unanimously approved plans to develop a new 35-lot residential subdivision on the Warm Springs Ranch property, concurrently initiating an option for the city to buy the majority of the 78-acre site to be a public park.
With Councilwoman Amanda Breen recusing herself from the deliberations, the council approved three associated applications by Sun Valley developer Bob Brennan to downzone and subdivide a 14-acre parcel on the north side of the high-profile property northwest of downtown. The council also voted 3-0 to authorize the mayor to sign an option agreement for the city to buy the remaining 64 acres of open space on the property from Brennan to be maintained as a public park and preserve. The purchase price is $9 million, which Brennan and the city have agreed is well below market value.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for this community,” Brennan said to the council after the votes, referring to the potential sale. “That’s the reason I bought this property. I never wanted to develop this property.”
Mayor Neil Bradshaw said he is eager to complete the purchase of the 64 acres.
“I look forward to the generous contributions of the community,” he said.
Brennan and the city drafted a $9 million “option to purchase agreement” for the city to potentially acquire the 64 acres Brennan owns on the south side of the creek, a former golf course currently being used as a park and dog-walking area. The agreement stipulates that the acreage be maintained as a “passive park” and natural area.
The option to purchase the 64 acres from Brennan hinged on City Council approval of his plan to develop the 35 lots on the north side of the property. As part of the deal, the city and Brennan will sign the option agreement when they sign a detailed development agreement for the 14 acres there. The city will then have six months to raise the $9 million and complete the purchase. The option period can be extended for an additional six months if the city has raised $4.5 million—half the purchase price—in the first six months.
The city plans to raise the money to buy the property through private donors and nonprofit organizations.
Brennan’s development plan calls for establishing 35 single-family home lots—reduced from 36—on 14 acres between Warm Springs Road to the north and Warm Springs Creek to the south. Through the approval process, the Tourist zoning on the planned residential parcel has been downzoned to General Residential-Low Density zoning. The application includes plans for new roads, a 24-space public parking lot for access to the planned 64-acre preserve, a public path to the preserve from Warm Springs Road and a new public bus stop on Warm Springs Road. Plans also call for restoring Warm Springs Creek to a natural state.
In addition to the downzone, all previous development entitlements on the 14 acres of the north side have been eliminated. Plans for that site once included a large hotel, commercial uses and townhomes.
If the sale of the remaining 64 acres to the city is not completed, the zoning of that land would remain as Tourist and Recreational Use, and Brennan—or potentially another developer—would have the option to submit new applications to develop the seven parcels that comprise the 64 acres. The area would be subject to the city’s planned-unit development process, which would treat the parcels as one site requiring a cohesive, overarching development plan.
Several changes were made to Brennan’s development plan in recent weeks. The number of residential lots was decreased from 36 to 35, accessory dwelling units—small, secondary housing units—will be permitted and Brennan will be allowed to develop four of the lots adjacent to Warm Springs Road with deed-restricted, multi-family community housing. Brennan is not required to build affordable housing on the four lots but “now there is the possibility,” Bradshaw said.
Members of the community and the City Council have encouraged Brennan to develop workforce housing on the site. At the outset of the meeting Monday, Councilman Michael David said soaring rents and housing prices have reached a “crisis” level. Before voting on the plans, Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton offered a “plea” to Brennan to develop community housing.
“We are at a very scary point in our town,” she said, in regard to the lack of affordable housing and its impacts on workers.
Brennan has said he is giving up tens of millions of dollars in potential profit by selling the 64 acres for $9 million. On Monday, he said he is also discussing the possibility of developing community housing on the site. He has called the Warm Springs Ranch project his “legacy,” after completing numerous successful housing developments in the Wood River Valley over several decades.
Before casting his votes, Councilman Jim Slanetz expressed strong support for Brennan’s plans.
“I really respect the vision and the generosity of the applicant,” he said.