The city of Ketchum has negotiated for additional time to raise the first half of $9 million to purchase about 65 acres of the high-profile Warm Springs Ranch property northwest of downtown.
The City Council voted 3-0 Monday to approve an amendment to an agreement between the city and the property owner that gives the city until Dec. 31 to raise the initial $4.5 million. The original agreement that gave the city the option to buy the land included an Oct. 28 deadline to procure the first $4.5 million.
The agreement stipulated that if the city can raise the initial $4.5 million in the allowed time, it would be given an automatic six-month extension to raise the second $4.5 million sum to complete the deal. That stipulation put the final deadline to purchase the property at April 28, 2022. That date remains unchanged, city officials stated.
The city is working to raise the money through donations from the public, with the Spur Community Foundation serving as custodian of the money. Mayor Neil Bradshaw told the City Council that the city has raised about $1.3 million for the project and has garnered pledges for about $2 million more.
The city does not plan to apply tax dollars toward the purchase of the land, other than limited funding being used to promote and coordinate the larger fundraising campaign.
The city and partners in the project are putting on a “full-court press” to raise the needed money, Bradshaw said Monday. The additional time to raise the first $4.5 million will allow the city to raise funds through the so-called “giving season” at the end of the year, when many would-be donors decide on contributions that can be written off in tax filings for the year, city officials said.
The privately held Warm Springs Ranch property—which for years featured a golf course, tennis courts and a popular restaurant—has been used by many people as a park and dog-walking area for the last decade. It includes Warm Springs Creek, grassy areas and some natural, forested areas near the flanks of Bald Mountain.
The 78-acre property is owned by Sun Valley developer Bob Brennan. He is developing an approximately 14-acre area of the site near Warm Springs Road with 35 lots for single-family homes. The Tourist zoning on the residential parcel is being downzoned to General Residential-Low Density zoning.
If the sale of the remainder of the property 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 there. Brennan has said that developing that acreage on the south side of the site is not his preference and that he would like to see the city own the land.
The option agreement states that the land must be preserved and maintained as a passive park and natural area for the public. It cannot be converted to other uses.
In August, the city initiated a campaign to raise $10 million to purchase and maintain the undeveloped area as a public preserve. The city is calling the property the Warm Springs Preserve. The plan calls for raising the $9 million to purchase the land and $1 million to install a water-efficient irrigation system and to restore parts of the landscape.
“This is our chance to preserve a special part of Ketchum, not only for ourselves, but for generations to come,” Mayor Neil Bradshaw said at the time. “I hope the community can come together and seize this unique opportunity.”
If the property is acquired, the city’s priorities will be:
- Preservation of green space and public access.
- Restoring the Warm Springs Creek riparian zone and floodplain.
- Installing a “water-conscious” irrigation system.
- Building a “connector trail” along the site that links west Ketchum with the Warm Springs neighborhood.
- Planning informal gatherings and activities, such as disc golf.
- Planning Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails.
- Installing a public restroom.
Restrictions on the property would include development, organized sports and reserved private or commercial events, such as weddings, the city has stated.
On Monday, council President Courtney Hamilton called the project “a great opportunity.”
Bradshaw said the campaign has sometimes been hindered by users’ perception that the land might never be developed, whether the city buys it or not.
“It’s hard, sometimes, selling something to the public, when they believe they already have it,” he said.