A Marriott-affiliated hotel proposed for a high-profile site on the southern side of Ketchum’s downtown core was given a significant push forward on Tuesday, but still has several hurdles in gaining full approval from the city.
Members of the Ketchum Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved four elements of Utah-based PEG Companies’ application to develop the approximately one-acre site at 251 S. Main St. with a 93-room hotel and 23 employee-housing units. The project—called the Ketchum Tribute Hotel—would be on three parcels on the southwest corner of Main and River streets, immediately south of the Limelight Hotel. 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.
The planned hotel—which has evolved as the application has been 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 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. The public would have access to the property and to Trail Creek.
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.
Following extensive city review of the approximately 136,000-square-foot project last winter and spring, the approval process had to be terminated and started again because of a city noticing error.
After some discussion about the public benefits of the project, the size and visual impact of the hotel structure, and its potential impacts on growth in the city, commissioners approved a floodplain development permit, a lot-line adjustment application and a proposed planned-unit-development/conditional-use permit with five waivers.
“I think this is a good fit. I think this is a great location,” said Commissioner Brenda Moczygemba.
The main aspect of the approvals granted Tuesday is for the planned-unit development, or PUD, which is essentially a governing agreement between the developer and the city to develop a site, as an alternative to developing strictly under the regulations of the zoning district. A statement from the city describes a PUD as “a permit authorized by the city to secure the most appropriate use of the land and to encourage flexibility and creativity in the development of the land to improve the design, character and quality of the development and to ensure public benefits are provided.” In this project, waivers have been 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.
In reviewing the project for P&Z commissioners, Justin Heppler, project architect from Utah-based AJC Architects, said the developers pursued a PUD to get all of the elements of a four-star, full-service hotel onto the sloping site. According to Heppler, the design team tried to create a building that “steps down” and creates a “transition” from the south side of town to the downtown core. He said the developers believe the hotel could serve as a means to absorb an influx of people escaping to mountain towns, happening currently amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“We feel like the project will provide catchment for these crowds,” he said.
The maximum allowed building height in the city’s Tourist zone is 35 feet. Heppler said the height waiver—and other waivers—allowed him to design a project that better fits with the development site than a building that strictly adhered to the inherent zoning.
“I believe it’s going to work really well,” Heppler said.
Public comment on Tuesday was both in favor of and against the proposed hotel development.
In expressing concerns about growth, commenter Kristy Turco said the P&Z should work to retain Ketchum’s “quality of life” and “character.”
“It seems to me that we’re sort of becoming a high-rise tourist destination,” she said.
Harry Griffith, executive director of Sun Valley Economic Development, said he supports the project for several reasons, including the creation of numerous full-time jobs, employee housing and major economic impact, as well as bringing year-round customers to local businesses.
Commenter Bob Crosby agreed.
“I think it’s important to emphasize that there are economic benefits to this project.”
Ketchum property owner Kevin Livingston voiced opposition, suggesting that the developers had received undue favorable treatment from the city.
“We’ve got to play by the rules here,” he said.
In response, project representative Deborah Nelson said the proposed waivers—which can legally be granted—create a “better product” for the city.
“We hope that that becomes part of the public understanding,” she said.
P&Z Chairman Neil Morrow said he supports the PUD process for the site, noting that it was codified as a tool for the city, and can be a means to allow better development on challenging building sites.
“The goal for us is balance,” he said. “… This has balanced out. … The PUD allows these waivers so we can get a better project on this site.”
After the P&Z reviews the findings of fact and conditions of the Tuesday actions—tentatively scheduled for Nov. 10—the applications will go to the City Council for consideration and, possibly, approval.
In addition to the elements of the project reviewed and approved on Tuesday, the project must also receive design-review approval, a process in which the P&Z will review and consider changes to the specific design elements of the development. The developer’s design-review application was tabled by the P&Z on Sept. 28. It will be reconsidered by the P&Z if the City Council approves the floodplain, lot-line adjustment and PUD applications.