Once again under the “COVID umbrella,” the city of Ketchum is pressing forward with its agenda. On Tuesday, May 11, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to advance the application of the Bluebird housing project” on to formal design review. That was done while many issues regarding the development remain unresolved and lying in the wings.

Concerns involving the project’s design, scale and finish materials were discussed, along with the potential impacts the proposed development would have on the surrounding neighborhood. Suggestions were made to modify the building’s facade in the hope of mitigating (disguising) its massive 50-foot height, specifically at the north, east and south elevations. Perhaps a four-story climbing wall towering over Sue Dumke’s historic cabin could work as a cloaking device? Is the future of Ketchum an architecture that is a series of maxed-out boxes hailing waivers? A collection of buildings cleverly displaying a mixed palate of colors and textures, ultimately dotting a new name, “Dotyville”?

The developer of Bluebird needs to give the facts, not fiction!  GMD Development claims to have a professional parking study, but its “made-as-instructed” document’s metric is flawed and unrealistic. One needs to allow, at minimum, one parking space per each bedroom. Eighty-two bedrooms equal 82 spaces. The proposed development only calls for 49 parking spaces on site, a large number of which are tandem. The 33 deficient spaces will have to be supplied elsewhere. A P&Z commissioner actually suggested providing the supplementary parking required, to be two and a half blocks away at the city’s (511 Building) parking lot. That would rob spaces currently used by local business employees and customers. How will these unrealistic type of solutions work? Think: future, electric cars, charging stations and snow removal. Think: Ketch housing project--not!

Finally, how can the citizens of Ketchum understand the nuts and bolts of the proposed financial arrangement between the city, the developer and the KCDC, when the P&Z can’t even comprehend it?

The complex long-term financial agreement is complicated! (Is it 15 years or 16?) Ownership, credits and the exiting of developing partners needs to be substantiated and clarified. Also, how do the ever-increasing “COVID” construction costs here in the valley affect the overall budget of this project? Think: Bariteau hole.

We the people need to know! We don’t need another “Ketch” situation. The affordable housing project was just sold for a whopping $9 million. The new proprietors are significantly raising the rents while the city has to swallow the pill on the in-perpetuity parking arrangement. What’s affordable about that?

These and other items must be addressed for the benefit of all parties prior to proceeding forward, so we don’t once again end up on a slippery slope without a sled. The city of Ketchum needs to “slow down, be kind and be smart”!

David Hurd is a resident of Ketchum.

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