In the midst of a regional housing crisis, local governments are doing all they can to maximize their affordable and workforce housing stock. In Hailey, that means new multifamily unit projects popping up across town. Just a couple of weeks ago, Sun Valley bought a property in Hailey that it plans to use for workforce housing. Now Ketchum, owner of five downtown lots that officials view as ripe for development, has hired a firm to determine the feasibility of developing each of those lots for housing.
Holst Architecture of Portland will analyze the Lift Tower Lodge, the Sixth and Leadville parking lot, the south and north YMCA parking lots and the Lewis Street recycling lot to determine the city’s ability to develop each.
The city will pay a total of $57,500 for the project. Of that, $25,000 was allocated in the fiscal 2023 Housing Action Plan, and there are adequate funds in the city’s contingency account to fund the remaining portion.
“We need to address the massive shortage of affordable homes for residents,” the firm stated in the packet it submitted to the city council prior to its March 6 meeting. “It is our job to ensure that we provide you accurate data to understand costs and implications of each decision.”
The analysis will address multiple factors, including social, land-use, economic and population changes. In January, Holst started the process with stakeholders in Ketchum, including developers and city officials. The firm is also interviewing community members.
Into the spring, Holst will continue its efforts, as well as begin analysis of the sites themselves. That process includes reviewing the city’s comprehensive plan and analyzing site-specific details like adjacencies, orientation and access, according to the packet. Holst will also analyze applicable regulatory requirements, easements and utilities. After that, it will conduct yield studies and explore massing options, floor area ratios, site layout and parking strategies. The final step is to create a presentation with concept diagrams and metrics for each site.
Developing these lots has been a topic of conversation at Planning and Zoning and City Council meetings in Ketchum over the last year. In December, the council voted unanimously to purchase six temporary housing units for $274,500, though that plan fell through after staff discovered that the structures were incompatible with electrical systems at The Meadows RV Park off of state Highway 75. In May, those units will be moved to the Lewis Street lot, a more permanent home until the lot can be developed into a full-scale project, which could include a number of multiuse buildings.
The YMCA lots have been discussed at length between city officials and representations of the organization, including Wood River YMCA CEO Jason Shearer. Over the next couple of months, Holst, the city and Shearer will analyze long-term expansion plans and required parking before developing a couple of scenarios for each lot.
“Then we’ll develop some criteria to evaluate those what-if scenarios and figure out operationally which one makes the most sense for long-term expansion needs,” City Administrator Jade Riley said.
The Leadville lot, in the heart of downtown, has been discussed at length by Ketchum officials and the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency. It is targeted for development soon.
The Lift Tower Lodge, a historic structure near the entrance of town, went from a decrepit structure at less than 50% capacity to a highlight of recent housing efforts by Ketchum and the Blaine County Housing Authority, which recently transferred ownership of the transitional housing site to the city. The lot will be used in its current form until an adjacent parcel, currently owned by Sun Valley Co., is transferred to Ketchum. That will not happen until the River Run base is further developed, something the Sun Valley Resort has said it does not have any immediate plans to do. The Housing Authority board, made up of representatives of Hailey, Bellevue and Ketchum, as well as Blaine County and the community at large, will still receive reports and updates from Ketchum city staff until at least Sept. 30.
Last May, voters rejected a measure that would have increased local-option taxes to help fund housing initiatives in Ketchum. That outcome dealt a major blow to the city’s newly adopted Housing Action Plan, a document with steps and strategies designed to expand Ketchum’s affordable-housing pool. The plan aims to build, preserve or convert 660 to 980 workforce units over the next 10 years, at an estimated cost of $5.5 million to $7.5 million per year. City estimates suggest the LOT proposal that failed last year would have added some $2.8 million to annual income—a projection based on revenues from the last fiscal year—only for workforce-housing initiatives.
This May, voters will be asked a slightly different question, with the message of “no new taxes” being put front and center, according to Mayor Neil Bradshaw. The ballot measure asks voters to decide whether to adjust the 1% for Air tax to 0.5% for air, 0.5% for housing. The measure is also being proposed to voters in Hailey and Sun Valley.
Holst has overseen urbanization projects across the West, mostly in its hometown of Portland, Oregon. Officials are hoping that Ketchum is next up for a downtown revitalization.
Post a comment as anonymous
Watch this discussion.
The city should swap lots and build on ones that are not smack dab in the middle of Ketchum. No need for another debacle like Bluebird (see: lack of parking, cost overruns, zero control over who actually lives there, and priced so low that essential workers make too much money to get in.) There a perfect place next to the Community School building near Bigwood Bread.
You are of course correct. If it was about housing people the City would look for the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck. But they don’t even analyze the costs. Look at how they bought 6 tiny homes for undocumented immigrants down valley to house them in the Meadows. But they didn’t spec them right so they are currently not in use. Shoot first, aim second. Did you get the housing survey? I can’t figure out who they are sending it to. None of the 20 somethings in Ketchum appear know about it. Isn’t this housing supposed to be for them? Why don’t they get a voice? Yet the Council will use the survey to make policy for them. Or, if consistent with their history, make policy that serves their own purposes. This Mayor and a council were elected 5 1/2 years ago. Is the housing crisis better or worse today?
Maybe we should have a contest/survey between the local governments to see which are the biggest clowns. It would be a tough race.
Where exactly are all these people working and what are the prices of these units?
Excellent questions. One would think the Housing Action Plan answers them. The City has never done a valid analysis of this. They use census data. Employers have not been surveyed. The Land Trust brought in a land use expert last week who showed the data the City is using isn’t accurate.
Just read the Ketchum Parking Plan. It calls for those lots to be commuter employee parking at a charge. Not sure how the City plans to both do commuter employee pay lots and low-income housing complexes on the same lots. Left hand might want to talk to the right hand.
The whole approach by the City needs a real plan. Here is one example. For the affordable units at 1st/4th, you qualify as a single making less than $66k or a couple making less than $76k. Think about how dumb that is. If you are a couple where each person makes $40k, you can qualify to live alone there but are not allowed to live there as a couple. The City's approach to housing is riddled with these bizarities, as their approach is all about units and not about people. Another example, how is moving 6 tiny homes permanently to a lot on Lewis Street make sense when that lot could hold 24 apartments? They are making this move to cover their mistake in buying those tiny homes in the first place. That seems to be the general approach--react without thinking. The Housing Plan calls for spending almost $400mm on 690 housing units. The prime mission is to let anyone who want to live in Ketchum live in Ketchum in subsidized housing. They want everyone who works in Ketchum to be able to live in Ketchum. Sounds nice, but that is 4000 people in a town of 3000 people. If you want to play out how this all ends, its no mystery. It is called Aspen.
Welcome to the discussion.