Ketchum City Council members approved development plans for a Marriott-affiliated hotel proposed for a high-profile site on the southern side of Ketchum’s downtown core on Monday, effectively giving the approximately 130,000-square-foot project the permission needed to move forward.
In three separate votes, the council members unanimously approved several elements of Utah-based PEG Companies’ application to develop an approximately one-acre site at 251 S. Main St. with a 92-room hotel and 23 units of employee-housing. The project—called the Ketchum Tribute Hotel—would occupy three parcels on the southwest corner of Main and River streets, immediately south of the Limelight Hotel.
The votes approved a floodplain permit, a lot-line adjustment and—most importantly—a planned-unit-development agreement/conditional-use permit, or PUD. A PUD is essentially a governing agreement between the applicant and the city to develop a site, as an alternative to developing strictly under the regulations of the underlying zoning district. The development site next to Trail Creek is in the city’s Tourist zoning district, which allows hotels but under different regulations than the neighboring Community Core zoning district.
Councilman Michael David said he has heard and read opinions both in favor of and against the project, but ultimately supports the plan, noting that it would bring economic benefits and would be preferable to the “weeds” that currently occupy the site. A commercial building on the property has been vacant for years.
“We as council members have to represent the community as a whole,” he said.
While the votes give a green light to the project, some steps do remain before all necessary approvals are obtained. The project will now head back to the Planning and Zoning Commission—which gave its approvals to development plans late last year—for design review. If the P&Z accepts the design, the city would then draft a final development agreement for the project, which would go to the City Council for its final stamp of approval, Mayor Neil Bradshaw said.
The planned four-star, full-service hotel—which evolved slightly as the application was reviewed extensively by the city over the course of 2020—includes plans for a public restaurant and bar at street level, meeting spaces, and a rooftop bar and patio area. The four-story hotel structure would gradually rise up the sloping site, with a maximum height of 72 feet above grade and a height of 48 feet at River Street—while resting about 25 feet lower than the Limelight Hotel, the project team said.
The public would have access to the property and to Trail Creek. Vehicles would access the site from River Street, where an underground parking garage would provide at least seven parking stalls for the public, the developers said. The employee housing would provide 23 beds through a mix of suites and studios on lower levels.
PEG describes the Tribute Portfolio of hotels as “a family of independent boutique hotels” that are linked to Marriott and use the Marriott reservation system but do “not necessarily resemble a traditional Marriott hotel.” The developer has stated that the project has been designed specifically for Ketchum.
After extensive city review of the project in 2019 and early 2020, the approval process had to be terminated and started again because of a city noticing error. Several approvals—including the PUD—had been granted. Councilwoman Amanda Breen noted that the city and its elected officials spent “many months” reviewing the project in the original proceedings and thinks it should move forward through a PUD, which is allowed by ordinance and permits “flexibility” in planning.
“We were elected because people put their trust in us to make the hard decisions,” she said.
In the project application, waivers were requested for a minimum lot size to have a PUD, a setback requirement, floor-area ratio (a measurement of density), height and the number of stories. The city can allow PUDs in the Tourist zone. The maximum allowed building height in the city’s Tourist zone is 35 feet.
Councilman Jim Slanetz said granting waivers might be “not popular” with citizens, some of whom don’t favor large-scale growth in the city. However, in the end, he supported the development plans.
Ketchum resident Perry Boyle spoke against the project in the public hearing on Monday. He said the project is a “beautiful hotel” but is something better suited for development in Vail, Colo., or Park City, Utah, than in Ketchum. He said the city could instead approve a smaller project.
“You are our last line of defense,” he said. “… You know that your electorate doesn’t want something this big on this site.”
Through the lengthy approval process for the hotel, voluminous public comments voiced opposition to the project, but it received support as well. On Monday, only two members of the public commented.
In reviewing the project for the City Council, Justin Heppler, project architect from Utah-based AJC Architects, said the project has evolved into “the best version of itself.” He said plans include landscaping along Main Street, restoration of the Trail Creek riparian area and places where the public could eventually gather, such as the bars, restaurant and conference rooms.
“We’re really proud of how this turned out,” Heppler said.