December 4, 2014
Driggs Planning & Zoning Commission
60 Main Street
Driggs, Idaho 83422
RE: Retail statistics on regional higher-end resorts
Dear Driggs Planning & Zoning Commissioners:
Thank you for tabling your Nov 20th hearing on the Huntsman Resort for further investigation and consideration. The question of the appropriate amount of retail for a 5-star resort of this size, type, and proximity to town is very important and should be carefully considered.
As shown in the chart below and in the attached report (see, at bottom of this webpage), the amount of food and retail presently proposed in Huntsman Springs Resort plan far exceeds any other resort of similar size and type. In fact, Sun Valley Lodge was the only other non-ski resort to even have a retail shopping plaza – and that resort is 77 years old with over 4 times the lodging units of Huntsman Springs.
At your prior hearing, Driggs’ Economic Development Director Doug Self stated that hotel guests at the Huntsman Lodge will eventually leave the resort to shop in downtown Driggs. However, vastly more restaurants and retail are proposed at this tiny lodge than almost any other similar resort in the region, and there is no regular shuttle system proposed to bring these hotel guests into downtown Driggs.
After studying how these other higher end resorts function, Mr. Self’s second stated conclusion that this resort will not syphon existing local customers away from downtown also seems implausible; the Huntsman Resort will most certainly draw them away with the allure of a brief retreat into luxury. None of these other high-end resorts shun local customers – in fact they attempt to attract locals by offering specials on events, spa treatments, brunches, and dinners. Does the city intend to police what specials and promotions are offered by the Huntsman Resort to prevent them from courting local customers?
And surely, residents of the Huntsman PUD itself will meander over to this shopping plaza as their nearest retail center for some excitement, a drink, or a meal. Does the city intend to restrict this customer traffic from within the PUD itself?
It must also be noted that restricting onsite parking to hotel guests is not a tactic employed by any of these other resorts. Furthermore, Mr Self’s suggestion to place chains or gates across the resort entrance road to keep locals from frequenting these businesses is an unheard of strategy because these resorts are still trying to attract (not shun) local customers to help round out the peaks and valleys of their business cycle. These resorts depend on a certain amount of local traffic to keep them profitable.
We are not in opposition to the Huntsman Resort itself, but are strongly in opposition the shopping plaza as detrimental to the future of downtown Driggs. The public has clearly voiced a similar sentiment: 70% of our recent survey respondents expressed outright opposition or concern with this shopping plaza. It was also a common theme in the the 38 public comment letters submitted to the city to-date.
These land use decisions can have permanent, long-lasting impacts on communities. Please, for the sake of Driggs, reconsider the necessity of the shopping plaza.
Thank you for your time and consideration serving the interest of this community.
Program Director and Staff Attorney
Valley Advocates for Responsible Development (VARD)
A comparison of the size, amenities, location, downtown connectivity, and retail square footage of other Teton-regional resort hotels. (Mostly 4 and 5-star accommodations)