The fight over ugly ended in Ketchum decades ago and, barring the arrival of some kind of economic desperation, it will remain settled.
The debate emerged again last week when the Planning and Zoning Commission reviewed the design of a proposed building on the Perry’s Restaurant site.
The ability to review proposed commercial buildings began with the arrival of the Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act in 1975. It generated heated debates in the city of Ketchum over whether the city should impose a standard architectural style.
The push-pull of the debates swirled around demands that the city mandate styles for downtown commercial buildings that ranged from alpine, rustic ranch Western, Bavarian, craftsman to nothing.
Architects strenuously argued that they did not wish to have their creativity handcuffed. Developers said that they wanted to remain free to use cost-effective materials and designs to keep costs down.
Ketchum’s “style” at that time was wood and brick. Its mining-era Main Street included a few old brick buildings separated by gas stations. Homes were small and wore clapboard siding.
With public sentiment all over the block, city leaders concluded that Ketchum’s style was “eclectic.” The sole exception to the anything-goes decision was a general agreement that commercial buildings should include native materials including wood, metal and stone.
A building that came in for design review after that decision fired up the debate again. The Crazy Horse building now located across from Giacobbi Square came in with stucco, glass and a flat green roof vaulted over the sidewalk. Its design was in-your-face modern and decidedly un-alpine.
The city stuck to its “eclectic” guns and today primarily regulates only qualities people can agree on including type of use, height and lot coverage.
Tastes in architecture are as diverse as tastes in art, music and clothing. At this late date, mandating a single style for architecture in Ketchum would be impossible. For better or worse, eclectic it will remain.
“Our View” represents the opinion of the newspaper editorial board, which is made up of members of its board of directors. Remarks may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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