Fourteen years ago, Ketchum residents took to the polls and overwhelmingly passed an initiative that effectively launched the Wood River Community YMCA. The initiative directed the city to lease a portion of the Park & Ride lot on Saddle Road to the Y. Therein was unleashed the most successful public/private partnership in the history of Blaine County.
With the city’s promise of available land for development and parking, a group of volunteers executed an audacious plan to raise funds to build a 66,000-square-foot YMCA. Their promise and commitment to the community and donors entailed building a spectacular facility which would offer incredible year-round programming to residents and visitors alike. The Y over-delivered on its promise and the positive impact on our community is extraordinary.
Today, the Wood River Community YMCA is approaching a crucial crossroads at which upcoming decisions by the city leaders will have far-reaching consequences for the organization, as well as for the community. The mayor and the City Council are debating plans for development on both the north and south ends of the Y, which will unquestionably impact the Y, its members and the Y’s ongoing operations. Under consideration are plans that would eliminate nearly 70 percent of available parking spaces at both the north and south ends of the Y’s leased footprint, spaces currently used by Y members, carpoolers, skiers and other recreationalists on a year-round daily basis.
Historically, the Y has enjoyed an incredibly positive relationship with city leaders. In 2005, when the Y signed its lease with the city delineating the Y’s phased development footprint, the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council discussed the need for significant Y parking outside the building lease but within the Park & Ride lot. A comprehensive parking study was conducted and the city determined that 150 spaces on the non-leased portion of Park & Ride would be necessary for the Y’s success. After signing the lease agreement, the Y entered into a parking agreement with the city “providing adequate parking for YMCA activities.”
Your current elected city officials have backtracked on this commitment, a commitment heartily endorsed by their predecessors. They have determined that Y parking, as described in the 2006 parking agreement, is merely “permissive” and subject to limitation and revocation by the city. They consider the Y’s need for adequate parking to be a “nonexistent alleged entitlement” and shouldn’t constrain the city’s development plans.
When presented with letters written by former Mayor Randy Hall and Councilman Baird Gourlay describing the intent of the original agreement and the spirit of cooperation that existed between the city and the Y,
Mayor Neil Bradshaw bizarrely stated that “the city does not agree with the recollections as stated in the letters.”
Last month, in the spirit of cooperation, the Y presented a proposal to the mayor and City Council that would recognize the Y’s original leased footprint, as well as clarify the city’s obligations under the current parking agreement, while still endorsing the city’s significant proposed development initiatives. Unfortunately, the city rejected the proposal in executive session without even allowing a public discussion.
YMCA volunteers and donors are frustrated and saddened by Ketchum city officials’ disregard of the commitments they made in the 99-year lease agreement signed in 2005. The terms of this agreement are crucial to the Y’s ability to fulfill its promise of financial viability and future development to all residents of the Wood River Valley over the next 86 years. As stewards of this promise, the Y’s volunteer board will vigorously defend, by all means necessary, the rights granted in the 2005 lease and parking agreement.
Ketchum resident Dan Turner is a member of the Wood River Community YMCA board of directors.