Ketchum is facing a lawsuit after a business owner on Fourth Street delivered notice following the closure of the road to vehicles between Walnut and Leadville avenues, claiming that the mayor and city council failed to notice area businesses when it took action to ban cars on the two blocks without seeking their opinions.
The letter claims half a million dollars in damages.
Lawyers for the claimant, Bigwood Square LLC, which includes the Bigwood Bread Café on the corner of East Avenue and Fourth Street, sent notice of the tort claim to the city on Thursday, July 9. Under Idaho law, the city has 90 days to respond, after which the case could head to court.
Bigwood Square’s owner, George Golleher, shared the document with the Idaho Mountain Express. His company alleges “at least” $500,000 in damages to business and property value due to the closure, saying that the city wrongly closed the street without giving proper notice to business owners. In addition, the allegations state that per city code, it is up to the city’s Traffic Authority board to establish pedestrian zones within the city.
“There appears to be no documentation that the Traffic Authority established a pedestrian zone or changed the traffic circulation on 4th Street between Walnut Avenue to Leadville Avenue, sought policy guidance from the city council on those issues, or provide [sic] Claimant with notice and an opportunity [to] provide input into such changes to 4th Street,” the letter states.
The Ketchum Traffic Authority did not meet the first five months of the year, with meetings canceled in January, February, March, April and May. The traffic board did not meet for the first time this year until after the City Council voted unanimously on the road closure on June 1, meeting weeks later on June 18. During that meeting the street closure was not discussed.
The Traffic Authority is made up of City Councilman Michael David, Police Chief Dave Kassner, City Administrator Suzanne Frick and Director of Streets and Facilities Brian Christiansen.
In an email to the Mountain Express today, Golleher said merchants are fighting with the city “over losing an additional 12 parking spaces and complete traffic gridlock.”
“This has been a big battle and a huge waste of time for all of us, as well as our businesses being once again adversely impacted by city management that does not give a damn,” he said.
According to the mayor’s recommendation for the street closure, included in the City Council’s June 1 meeting packet, the reasons for the closure were based on “communities throughout the nation” closing streets to provide space for pedestrians while providing physical distancing. The recommendation stated that Fourth Street “is an ideal street for pedestrians and bicyclists and is not a main thoroughfare.”
The council unanimously voted to close the two blocks until Thanksgiving.