Ketchum gears up for growth
Consultant says city should recoup
By GREGORY FOLEY
Express Staff Writer
Ketchum City Council members last week
started the long process of addressing what will likely be the most difficult
question they will face this year: Should the city annex more land into its
Under a plan put forth earlier this
year by Sun Valley Co., about 100 acres of land adjacent to the River Run
Lodge could be annexed into the city of Ketchum. Express photo by Willy Cook
With Sun Valley Co. and developer Sun
Valley Ventures preparing to file separate applications to annex large parcels
of real estate into western Ketchum, council members and city staff conferred at
length Friday, July 23, with an expert on annexation processes.
Susan Buxton, a Boise-based attorney with
expertise in land-use issues, told city officials they are about to embark on a
balancing act, in which they must seek to ensure the city is compensated for the
costs of annexing additional land but also must avoid getting greedy while
making their demands.
"The idea is that growth should somehow
pay for itself," Buxton said.
For the city, the stakes are high.
Sun Valley Co. has indicated it will
submit later this summer a plan to annex approximately 100 of some 160 acres of
company land at River Run, immediately southwest of downtown Ketchum.
A master development plan for the site
calls for a new 200-room luxury hotel, nearly 500 residential units and a new
multi-level parking garage, all potentially worth hundreds of millions of
The Sun Valley Co. land is located in
Blaine County but lies within the city’s designated area-of-city-impact
Sun Valley Ventures in August plans to
submit an application to annex into Ketchum approximately 65 acres of land at
Warm Springs Ranch, located north of the city center along Warm Springs Creek.
The development plan for the 77-acre Warm
Springs site includes a new luxury hotel and spa, as well as new residences,
said Henry Dean, project director.
While most of the Warm Springs property is
under the jurisdiction of Blaine County, approximately 10 acres of the
site—including the Warm Springs Ranch Restaurant—is already located in the
city’s Tourist zoning district.
Buxton said the city will inevitably hold
most of the cards while negotiating with the two development groups. In
considering annexations, she said, the city does not have to justify any
decision it makes to approve or deny an application.
"Basically, you don’t even have to have a
reason," she said. "You can just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’"
However, Buxton noted, if the city decides
to negotiate toward the approval of either annexation application, it will have
to quantify what the public costs of the project would be and seek to recoup
those costs. Costs for annexations are typically associated with providing
public services—such as fire protection and emergency response—and building new
The city can assert annexation fees and
tightly control what development occurs on an annexed site through a so-called
development agreement, which effectively binds the actions of current and future
"We don’t want to annex something that is
going to be a bigger burden to the city," Buxton said.
By annexing the River Run or Warm Springs
Ranch properties, the city stands to substantially increase its tax base and
could benefit from the creation of new jobs. In addition, the city can negotiate
for other, more-tangible public benefits, such as parks, open space, trails and
deed-restricted affordable housing.
The city’s powers will be substantial,
Buxton said, but legislators nonetheless must be careful to be reasonable in
assessing annexation fees.
"You don’t get a windfall."
Dean said a detailed plan of the Warm
Springs Ranch project will be presented to the City Council on Aug. 16. An
annexation application will likely come the following week, he noted.
Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon said the city
expects an annexation application from Sun Valley Co. "soon."