solstice

The downsized plan for the Main Street would cover two parcels, whereas the original design covered a full block between Fourth and Fifth streets.

Plans to develop a high-profile property on Main Street in downtown Ketchum are moving forward after a series of delays.

The Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission advanced a 22,000-square-foot project with three retail spaces, five market-rate residential units and private garages to final design review on Tuesday, one step closer to the final review of the project by the Ketchum City Council.

The project, which is located between Fourth and Fifth streets on a site colloquially called “Hot Dog Hill,” has a somewhat tumultuous history. Last year, a larger version of the project was rejected by the Planning and Zoning Commission. At the time, developer Chris Ensign of Utah-based Solstice Development criticized the decision as one of “an elitist community.”

The previous rendition of the project proposed to develop the entire half-block along Main Street between Fourth and Fifth streets. However, the northern section of the property—where Formula Sports was previously located—was sold to another developer for a separate project.

Peter Paulos, a representative of PH Architects, described the major changes made to the plans based on previous comments from the P&Z and the public.

The first submission to the P&Z was a building that mostly featured glass, along with brick and steel. The new rendition reviewed for the first time Tuesday has much less glass, as well as horizontal wood paneling designed to better match the look of Main Street. The front facade would be about 39 feet high and the rear facade would be about 42 feet.

Additionally, underground parking was eliminated.

“We’re not digging down beneath this building. We’re trying to follow the natural contour and slope of the site, hence why the garages are up at the alley elevation,” Paulos said.

The discussion Tuesday was much tamer than previous hearings, as P&Z commissioners were generally in favor of the building’s design.

“I like the industrial look, especially the glass and steel details,” Commissioner Tim Carter said.

“From a design perspective, I like this building,” Commissioner Spencer Cordovano said. “I was driving down Main Street and all the buildings are brick, brick and brick. I think it matches the feel of downtown.”

Cordovano said “the height might be more radical than a lot of us would like to see, but it fits the code.”

The development-review process began in November 2020 when Ensign first presented to the P&Z. The combative design-review hearing took place the following February. Following that meeting, Ensign formally appealed the commission’s decision to the City Council, but rescinded it in fall 2021. Since then, the applicants have been working to redesign the project from its original four parcels of land to the two parcels included in the most recent design.

Commissioner Mattie Mead expressed conditional support for moving the submission forward out of pre-design review. He said that he wants to see the applicant consider adding community-housing units, increasing commercial density, and reducing the size of the housing units to increase density.

Cordovano expressed worry that the commercial units—at around 1,300 square feet each—are too large and the rent would be too costly.

“Right now, those retail units would go for about $4,500 a month, and I don’t know who is going to pay that,” he said.

Notably, because the project does not include any community housing, the applicants would have to pay a fee of more than $900,000 to the city. That total is based on a formula that takes into account the size of the building. Projects can be larger if they include community housing or pay a housing “in-lieu” fee. The funds would be put towards community-housing efforts elsewhere in the city. The original project that was rejected last year included community-housing units.

“We need to decide if that trade-off is worthwhile,” Carter said.

Because the proposal has four floors, it must go to City Council for approval after final design review by the P&Z. The next P&Z meeting is June 14. 

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