With three weeks left to go until its first City Council hearing, the planned Ketchum Boutique Hotel drew a full—and largely dissenting—crowd to City Hall on Monday during a public-comment session.
As the night progressed, comments indicated that adjustments will need to be made if the hotel’s blueprints are to gain public approval.
Of the dozen-plus Ketchum residents who slammed the proposed six-story Marriott portfolio hotel, many went over their allotted three minutes. Short bouts of clapping broke out after several speeches despite Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s repeated appeals to withhold applause.
“When we have a process, it’s really important that people feel safe up here to make their comment, whether for or against an issue,” Bradshaw said between speakers.
He added in an email to the Idaho Mountain Express on Tuesday that he was happy to see the level of community involvement in the hotel application.
“This is just the start of the process and I hope everyone stays involved throughout,” he said.
Those who spoke on Monday were in attendance because they will not be able to attend the Oct. 7 public hearing, during which City Council members will review PEG Cos.’ planned-unit development agreement and conditional-use permit applications and welcome public comment.
Among the top concerns cited were traffic congestion and a lack of employee accommodations, but the main point of contention was the city’s possible granting of four waivers.
The waivers, required for PEG to begin construction, would effectively erase four zoning infringements generated by the current blueprints. They include building on only one acre, two acres short of the three-acre minimum; building 10 feet closer to River Street than allotted; exceeding the maximum floor-area ratio of 1.6; and, perhaps the most controversial, more than doubling the building’s height from the 35-foot maximum to 72 feet.
If allowed to progress, the Marriott—slated for development at 260 E. River St. on Ketchum’s southern entryway parcel—would become the fourth hotel to join at the intersection of Main and River streets by 2021. That’s assuming that Jack Bariteau’s proposed luxury hotel breaks ground this year.
The 100-room, 135,000-square-foot hotel would also become the 10th Marriott hotel built in the Rocky Mountain region by PEG and would join Marriott’s “Autograph Collection” of luxury hotels and resorts.
Though increased tourism could be a plus for the city, many residents implored the council to follow its own laws and deemed the waivers an insult to Ketchum’s municipal code, which they say took years of tough votes and deliberation to go into effect.
“It’s bad policy,” said Ketchum resident John Sahlberg, who owns property adjacent to the proposed hotel. “Putting a 72-foot lighthouse at the entrance of the city, that’s really what this feels like. I don’t think you appreciate how frustrated some of us feel.”
Another Ketchum resident familiar with the River Street property was Vicky Graves, who was most concerned about traffic.
“For 37 years, I lived next to the proposed hotel site—I can’t tell you how many fender benders, honks and screeching brakes I heard on that corner,” she said. “That was before we had the traffic that we do now.”
Ketchum resident Gary Hoffman picked up where Graves left off.
“Even with the planned [Highway] 75 widening to four lanes, there is a real bottleneck concern with the buildouts of two hotels,” he said.
Former developer Kevin Livingston said the 1,200 signatures he’s received so far on his digital petition to halt construction of the hotel should be a strong indication of public dissent.
“If you look at the sheer numbers, that’s more people than those who put you in office,” he told the council. “People don’t want this project.”
Livingston said the pace of the project is concerning.
“I just find it awkward that the hotel went through the P&Z process so quickly,” he said.
Bradshaw reminded the public that no official actions to advance hotel construction have been made.
“We will take all the time necessary to make a decision that is good for our community,” he said. “I know the council takes their role very seriously.”
If successful, PEG plans to begin construction next spring.
The Provo, Utah,-based developer has previous history in Ketchum—it built the 62,000-square-foot Frenchman’s Place behind Grumpy’s in 2005. In the past five years, PEG has also opened six Hyatt-brand hotels in the West, in addition to chain restaurants such as Chili’s and Zaxby’s Chicken.