I thought I was all ready for winter. Things were all in their place, and excitement building for the ski season. And then the reality of it set in. The first big storm of the season delivered a punch. The storm came in with the ground warm and left the roads glazed up. The snow mostly came right at the commute time, so the plows were trying to deal with it in traffic, and all those cars packing it down made it that much harder to clear. The roads were a mess, and people were driving like idiots.
Then it got cold. Good old pipe-busting cold. The dogs demand to go outside, and about as quickly as I let them out and close the door, they have run around the other side of the house and are up on the deck crying to come back in. A little of that sub-zero stuff goes a long way. The guys out there all night with the snow guns at the resorts are tougher than me, or reliant on a higher grade of antifreeze.
Plowing the snow in the heated comfort of the new tractor was wonderful. It was a little different sitting in there, isolated from the engine noise, with a little Grateful Dead in the CD player, not hearing every stick or piece of gravel getting blasted through the snow blower. That's always been such an intimate experience—snow blowing back in my face, the clatter of stuff that isn't snow getting ingested and shot out the stack just before breaking the sheer pin, the engine straining when it got overloaded. Now it's sort of like watching a movie of it.
If you haven't been up yet, skiing is actually pretty good. There isn't a whole lot open, but there also isn't anybody here. The usual suspects went out and skied Treasure Hollow from Payday, then Home Run laps from Bonanza, the made a few runs from top to bottom -- Home Run in all its glory. With the new snow it was really good. This weekend brings us Deer Valley, and also new terrain opening up at the others. I can't imagine making a day of it, but for a few hours it's been fun.
The City is in the final stages of approving a new General Plan. In theory, it is supposed to be the guiding document for the next 10 or 15 years of what the town will look like, and how it will develop. It's been 3 years in the making and is a big, fat document.
Frankly, I'm puzzled by the whole operation. There are only three vacant parcels of any size left—the Deer Valley and PCMR parking lots and Sweeney -- and those all have vested approvals on them. So there leaves whatever redevelopment happens in the Bonanza Park area, and a few vacant lots scattered around in existing subdivisions. The town is built (or maybe over-built). So a five-pound general plan document seems a little late to the party.
But like an amendment to the IRS code, there are forces at work. The right sentence or phrase slipped in there may allow something different down the road. A taller building here, a different mix of uses there, and maybe a Viking ship on Heber Avenue. There are issues about whether there is a way to limit nightly rentals in Old Town in hopes of forcing people to live there. Old Town was a lot more interesting as a functioning neighborhood with families living there, but prices have made that impossible. And people with kids seem to want houses with yards. I'm not sure we need to legislate that choice.
The City Staff is quite determined to get more affordable housing in town. Year round, engaged residents is what makes Park City work. There was a consultant study that recommended turning the City golf course into "middle class" housing. I don't know how much the City paid for that bad idea, but it isn't going to happen. Is that infecting the general plan?
So it kind of matters. But in reality, general plans tend to be years in the making before being stuck on a shelf and ignored. What matters is the much more specific zoning ordinance. Park City's proposed General Plan, like everything else in Park City, is a general plan taken to extremes. World class. Given its bulk, it has to get pretty specific -- in a general sort of way.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.