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‘Do You Need $5 Million to be a Citizen of Ketchum? Is That What It Takes?’
Tuesday, May 3, 2022


The rental price on the tent Krzysztof Gilarowski set up in Ketchum Town Square Sunday afternoon  jumped in price from $1,500 last year to $2,395 this year.

It was meant to serve as a visual reminder of how much rental prices in Ketchum have increased since the inaugural Occupy Ketchum Town Square Rally a year earlier.

“And it reminds us that a lot of workers live out Trail Creek,” said Gilarowski.

More than 50 people turned out for the rally, despite a snowy morning that gave way to bright sunshine and temperatures approaching 60 degrees.

Last year’s rally was designed to prod the City of Ketchum to accelerate housing solutions. This one focused on getting voters to approve the LOT tax for workforce housing on May 17.

Revenues from Ketchum’s LOT tax cannot currently be used for housing. The ordinance being voted on would change that, while increasing the retail sales tax in Ketchum by three-quarter percent; hotel occupancy sales tax by 2 percent; liquor-by-the-drink sales tax by 2 percent and building materials sales tax by 1 percent.

That means paying an extra 20 cents on a $10 cocktail, an extra 75 cents on a $100 purchase at Sturtevants and an extra $1 on $100 worth of building materials, said Gilarowski.

“It’s an increase in tax that we will all pitch in to pay, but tourists will end up paying about 70 percent,” he said.

If we don’t pay that 20 cents on a $10 drink, we may end up paying more anyway because businesses will have to pay workers more so they can find housing and they’ll pass the costs on to the consumer, he added.

Gilarowski recounted how he’s just received an email telling him that the pool his boys love to go to may not be open for open swim this summer because they’re having difficulty hiring 15 lifeguards.

“Even the wealthy may see the value of their real estate go down if there are no workers to keep restaurants and other businesses open,” he said.

Filmmaker Spencer Cordovano, who ran for mayor last year, acknowledged that nobody loves paying taxes.

“But I support this because of the way it uses the funds. This raises taxes but it also allows those taxes to be used for housing. It gives us more options,” he said. “Some say these taxes should only be imposed on tourists, but we all need to pay into our community.”

Gilarowski, who moved to the United States from Poland when he was 12, now manages the housekeeping staff at the Limelight Hotel Ketchum. He founded Occupy Ketchum Town Square last year to find housing solutions to help his staff and others.

And he wouldn’t mind it if he could find a bigger place than he currently shares with his wife, their two sons and a 75-pound Lab at Northwood Place.

He noted that 56 years ago the City of Ketchum decided there needed to be a concerted effort to build affordable housing but not enough was done and worker housing is disappearing.

“Do you need $5 million to be a citizen of Ketchum? Is that what it takes?” he asked. “We’re selling off four community for $4.5 million condos.

Mary Fauth told how her Blaine County Charitable Fund has helped people keep the heat on in their cars because they had nowhere else to go.

School Board Trustee Blanca Romero told listeners that the school district has 46 open positions that are difficult to fill because those who are offered positions can’t find a place to live. The school district hopes to build three units for teachers, but that’s a drop in the bucket, she said.

Twenty families will be displaced from J&J Trailer Park near S. Luke’s hospital at the end of May to make way for a new construction project. And many families can’t qualify for new affordable units because they make too much money to meet federal guidelines yet their wages aren’t enough to cover the valley’s higher housing costs.

“It’s estimated a family has to make $107,000 a year to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the valley,” said Gilarowski. “And there are not a lot of apartments available.”

The Casino’s Matt Gorby noted that he has resisted the trend to double the rent on a condo he owns in Ketchum, even though he’s sure his tenant of seven years would pay it.

 “But I would never do that to him,” he said.

And Blaine County Clerk Stephen McDougall Graham noted that he was able to secure $4 million in federal funds for housing efforts but that he and his wife Naomi had had to move three times in the last 18 months as the houses they were renting were sold out from under them.

It was terrifying and it was stressful as they had less than a month’s notice to find a new place in each case, he said. Happily, they just secured a new home in Woodside after having had eight previous offers on homes trumped by cash offers.

Tina Gorby can relate. She moved to the Wood River Valley from South Dakota two and a half years ago to be close to family. She landed an apartment just before the pandemic sent rental prices spiraling.

“I love it here—I spent a year here 30 years ago and have been trying to get back ever since,” said Gorby, who works at the Wood River Inn and Zions Bank. “But it’s tough wondering whether my lease will get renewed or whether the apartment will be converted to a B&B.”

Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw said that his city has upped its game, coming up with a detailed Housing Action Plan. But the city needs funds to put options in place, and the city cannot use the money it currently gets from LOT taxes for housing.

“It’s not just about putting head over people’s heads but preserving the soul of Ketchum,” he said.


Early voting can be done at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through May 13. Ketchum voters can vote at The Community Library on Election Day—May 17.



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