A parking agreement between the city of Ketchum and the Wood River YMCA received a stamp of approval from the Ketchum City Council on Monday, putting to rest a year and a half of negotiations between the two parties—at least temporarily.

The amendment to the YMCA’s original parking agreement will only stand if Ketchum’s $11.5 million fire station bond is passed by a two-thirds majority in the Tuesday city elections.

If the bond does in fact go through, the city would ensure the Y has continued access to parking on the adjacent city-owned “Park and Ride” lot along Saddle Road, and the Y would be guaranteed at least 150 parking spots, 100 of those on-site.

According to the addendum document compiled by YMCA and city attorneys, the total number of parking spaces would increase to 200 if the Y expands as planned, with 150 of those on-site.

The agreement also affirms that the Y cannot officially reserve any parking spots, as they are for public use, and both parties would need to restart negotiations if the bond fails.

Given that last provision, the YMCA board has now turned over a new leaf of support for the bond measure.

“We support the fire bond!” read a Thursday flyer released by the YMCA, picturing smiling schoolchildren in front of a fire truck.

This sentiment was echoed by YMCA CEO Jason Shearer in City Hall on Monday.

“There are many of us who wish to express our sincere thanks to each of you for your perseverance and understanding in this long process of creating a parking and lease amendment and addendum,” Shearer told the council. “We have all worked hard and we should all feel pleased.”

In an interview last week, YMCA Board Chairman John Dondero said public parking on the “Park and Ride” lot surrounding the YMCA has always been crucial, especially for Ketchum’s growing senior demographic.

“It’s very important to have parking spots in close proximity to our building, because so many of our guests are not able to easily walk long distances in the snow,” Dondero said.

It just so happens that the “Park and Ride” is the favored site for a new fire station, north of the YMCA facilities and next to the Northwood Place residential development.

Parking access wasn’t a problem until about a year and a half ago, Dondero said, when YMCA and city objectives began to clash. While the Y looked forward to expanding into a larger building footprint as guaranteed in its 99-year lease with the city, he said, Ketchum officials had begun weighing the merits of building new projects adjacent to the community center.

To the YMCA board, that meant the Y could lose essential parking spots as the surrounding lot would be consumed by city development. Thus began a long road of back-and-forth discussion between Y board members and the city.

Signs of resolution didn’t come until around 6 p.m. last Wednesday, when Dondero estimated that 14 out of 20 YMCA board members had voted “yes” on the new agreement. By the following afternoon, all 20 were in favor.

“The YMCA board of directors has voted unanimously, with 100 percent participation, to authorize the signing of this agreement,” YMCA CEO Jason Shearer said on Monday. “The board joins in support of our firefighters and our emergency responders, and sincerely thank the city for acknowledging the parking needs of the Y and of its thousands of members and guests.”

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw returned Shearer’s thanks.

“I’m excited for the YMCA, because they can expand and continue to serve the community with new visibility, and I’m also excited for the city,” he said. “There was some ambiguity in the original contract that led to different interpretations, but I’m thrilled that we now have some clarity. I’m thankful for the hard work of Jason Shearer, John Dondero and all the board members—finding the right balance in any agreement is because we care.”

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

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