The Ketchum City Council on Monday defined the qualifications for the seven community housing units forthcoming in the three-story, multi-use building being built in the former site of Perry’s Restaurant.
The city will determine eligibility for the units based on income categories, which are numbered one through nine and are divided into 20% increments of area median income from zero to 200%, plus a category without a limit called “Category L.”
City staff recommended that an average of Category 4, which serves those who make between 80-100% of the area median income, be required for the project. The plans submitted and approved Monday call for the seven units to average to an income category of 4.6.
Councilman Jim Slanetz was the only councilmember who felt that this wasn’t sufficient.
“I am kind of a hard-liner on this, I think that we should [require] an average of 4, because above that kind of dilutes our housing [efforts],” he said.
Slanetz asked if another Category 4 or 5 unit could be added to bring the average down further. Ketchum Planning and Building Director Morgan Landers clarified that the number of community housing units is determined by a formula, and that the city cannot require more. In total, the project has 23 residential units, four commercial units and 29 parking spaces over 54,000 square feet.
The ground floor contains 11 housing units, as well as the four commercial units and a lobby. There is also an open courtyard with a Zen garden and sculpture. The second floor has eight residential units, and the top floor has four. The building is 42 feet high at its front and rear.
“Most conversations I have had with people in town, especially people that are in need of affordable housing, are that it feels like [catering to] income categories five and six isn’t doing anything about the housing problem,” Councilman Michael David said. “But there are [a lot of] people who are making [more than is targeted] for Bluebird Village and Northwood Place, so I think this works well.”
Councilwoman Courtney Hamilton agreed with David.
“There are people within these income categories who are looking for housing. I know there is concern over this setting a precedent for allowing income categories [averaging more than] four, but from my perspective I’m not setting any precedent by saying that these are allowed to move forward,” she said. “I’m saying right now, we could use some fives and sixes. And I feel better about having that than about [letting the] units become market rate, and receiving the ‘in-lieu’ payment.”
Developers in Ketchum are allowed to pay a fee to the city instead of building affordable housing units into new construction. Earlier this spring, Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioners applauded the developers of this project, Sun Valley resident Broderick Smith and Ketchum resident Carson Palmer, for choosing to contribute community housing units instead of paying the fee.
At its March 6 meeting, the City Council requested that the developers adjust their community housing contributions. To that point, the plan included proposals for two units for Category 4, two units for Category 5, two units for Category 6, and one unit for Category L. The Council was specifically critical of the Category L unit, which would not have an income cap, but just require that the resident work in Blaine County.
The new plan approved on Monday includes four Category 4 units, two Category 5 units and one Category 6 unit.
“I want to thank the applicant,” Hamilton said. “This is a bigger shift than I expected.”
Mayor Neil Bradshaw agreed.
“In my mind, they’ve made a significant shift,” he said.
Slanetz stood fast.
“I just didn’t like how this whole thing went down,” he said. “We said Category 4, and we have entered the negotiation phase.”
The mountain-modern structure is one of many such projects that has been approved for the community core in recent years. At a March Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, Commission Chair Neil Morrow responded to public criticism of the project.
“People tonight have said that we are losing the feel of Ketchum due to buildings like the one proposed,” he said. “It’s not up to us to [judge] the projects [based on that]—it’s not up to us to tell people what to build, unless we want to change the code.”
At that meeting, GGLO Architects representative Tina Ritval said their goal was to build something “congruous with its context.”
“A lot of this came from the community design guidelines, and the precedent that other buildings [in town set],” Ritval said. “We did look at [using] stone, but it felt wrong and looked too heavy and massive.”
In the end, only Slanetz voted against approving the proposed community housing unit organization. ￼
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