The myths that entangle the Sun Valley area are like bindweed, nearly impossible to stamp out. Just when it looks it’s gone, the invasive plant emerges and strangles its way through the garden.
One myth pops up every time the local economy enjoys good health. It says that tourism is not the area’s bread and butter.
The myth infected the area just before the crash of 2008—and it’s back. Before the crash, some people said the local economy was based on construction, real estate and arts. The crash killed that myth for only a decade.
A second myth is that no commercial development exists between Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum because no one thought of it, not because zoning ordinances outlawed them. The same myth pops up about hillside development.
A third myth is that waivers to specific zoning requirements for certain kinds of development are illegal. They’re not. A better name for waivers is options that may be granted by elected officials in exchange for public benefit.
The options exist primarily for commercial developments, including hotels and high-density residential developments. They are trading chits used to shape certain kinds of development, including hotels like one now proposed in Ketchum.
The most dangerous myth is that the area’s cities were not intended to host high densities and bigger buildings. Belief in that myth will destroy the protections that have kept the area from becoming like every other ugly place in America.
The Sun Valley area may look like an unplanned idyll, but it is rooted in ski lifts, the Sun Valley Lodge and marketing begun by Union Pacific Railroad in 1936.
Bindweed kills everything in its path. Unfounded myths can too.