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Ketchum looks at temporary zoning changes to boost housing supply

An aerial view of downtown Ketchum
City of Ketchum
Ketchum is considering temporary development regulations to boost the housing supply.

The city of Ketchum is proposing temporary changes to its zoning code to address the housing shortage and to respond to recent development trends staff feel are moving the city in the wrong direction.

The resort city’s comprehensive plan, which was written in 2014, calls for a “strong and diverse economy” and a “vibrant downtown,” Senior Planner Morgan Landers told the city council Monday.

“We want to have higher density near key areas, we want to have a mix of housing types, and the city of Ketchum will increase its housing supply over time to serve the needs of our community,” she said.

But, according to the city, recent market trends are pushing it away from those ideals with residential construction slowing and more long-term rentals becoming short-term ones. Office, retail and restaurant space is diminishing too.

This spring, planning staff brought forward a similar proposal as an “emergency ordinance.” It was a reaction to a substantial number of downtown building projects in the works with a smaller number of units in zones intended for higher density.

The council sent the proposal back to the planning and zoning commission so it could receive more public input, and that board voted to approve a new ordinance in August.

During this week’s meeting, the council passed the first reading of the interim ordinance that would establish minimum residential densities in certain districts; make it harder to consolidate lots; prevent the loss of the number of housing units in redevelopment; provide exemptions to the number of parking spaces that are required; and to give the planning and zoning commission more authority to measure building proposals against the comprehensive plan vision.

Public comment at a community forum this summer was largely positive about the changes, city staff said.

Some in the real estate field have concerns about what it will mean in practice.

“We just haven’t been able to look at this in terms of what this code is going to do to allow things to actually get done,” said Tom Drougas with Sun Valley Real Estate.

Others think development projects should not be scrutinized according to the broad comprehensive plan. Landers said this is done in cities like McCall, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

The measure will soon come up for another reading before the council.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.