A site plan delineating 170 parking spaces at the full buildout of the YMCA and the Ketchum fire station remains contested as the Y’s CEO, Jason Shearer, claims the spots are for compact vehicles and not standard size. Per P&Z recommendation, a graphic depicting the spaces must be agreed upon by the city and the YMCA prior to the fire stations final approval in Ketchum City Council.

The Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of a design-review application for a proposed fire station on city-owned property north of the Wood River Community YMCA on Monday, following the addition of three recommendations. The application will now go to the City Council for final approval.

The process had previously stalled during a Feb. 10 meeting when the P&Z requested additional information regarding a traffic and circulation study conducted by Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM, improvements to the landscape design and a graphic that reflected the parking agreement between Ketchum and the YMCA.

During Monday’s three-hour long meeting, commissioners still had questions regarding the city’s proposal for parking at the Y under an agreement reached in November guaranteeing at least 150 parking spots, 100 of those on site, with the total number of spaces increasing to 200 if the Y expands as planned, 150 of those on-site.

A graphic depicting the proposed parking lot layout presented to the P&Z shows 170 parking spots on site with the fire station and the Y at full buildout. But Wood River Community YMCA CEO Jason Shearer said Monday night that the parking spaces depicted were not to standard size and also argued that that layout would not make it easy for a fire truck to get in and out in case of an emergency.  

“It’s concerning,” Shearer told the commissioners.

In response, Ketchum City Administrator Suzanne Frick said the spaces are in fact full size and that the city has worked with Galena Engineering to ensure that. Regardless, commissioners recommended that the City Council ensure the Y receives and agrees to an accurate depiction of the parking layout prior to final approval of the fire station. P&Z Chairman Neil Morrow said he believed it was within the commission’s purview to ensure the city avoids future litigation with the Y by ensuring that the parking agreement is adhered to from the outset.

The two other recommendations passed on to the City Council include implementing safety standards from the final traffic study and adding at least two trees to the overall landscape design around the fire station.

As of Monday, the traffic study was not yet complete; instead, AECOM included a memo to the P&Z in the meeting packet. Commissioner Jennifer Cosgrove expressed concerns that no new information was collected for the study and that pedestrian traffic was not considered at all.

“While no pedestrian crossing data were provided, the area surrounding the proposed fire station includes several pedestrian generators including YMCA, Rotary Park, the Guy Coles Skate Park, Big Wood School, Ernest Hemingway School and multiple trails,” AECOM’s memo states.

One Warm Springs resident commented that pedestrian conflicts already exist in the area and that adding a fire station to the mix would be “ludicrous.” Cosgrove commented that the memo did not provide enough information to determine whether this project would work in the area it’s slated for.

However, P&Z’s Monday’s meeting was solely for design review. The site location has already been determined.

“The site is the site and we’ve made our squeaky wheel noises about it,” Morrow said.

The traffic memo went on to state that data collected from the city showed that the Fire Department responded to 1,019 calls in 2019, averaging 20 per week.

“Based on discussions with the fire department, it is estimated that the egress distribution from the fire station would likely be 1 to 2 calls per week west on Warm Springs Road, 10 to 11 calls per week east on Warm Springs Road, and 7 to 8 calls per week north on Saddle Road,” the memo states.

Mitigation measures in the memo included fire station warning signs that would flash when an emergency vehicle is leaving it. The signs could be deployed near the Big Wood Church/ School, the Y and transit stops on Saddle and Warm Springs roads. The signs would alert pedestrians and bicyclists to the presence of an emergency vehicle.

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