County’s hands tied on unfinished homes
November 2, 2010
An empty home near Kilby Road is reminding the county of the downside to private property rights.
The home, which can be seen from Interstate 80, has plywood up for a garage door because, according to Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner Julie Hooker, the developer ran out of money and walked away.
In order to stay current on building permits, work must be completed on a timetable, explained Summit County assistant building official Bill Vanderlinden. But other than charging a fee for the next renewal when the date is past, there is little the county can do.
The issue of abandoned construction projects was brought to the attention of Park City’s planning commission in early October. Many residents see the partially-completed homes or buildings as an eyesore.
Except for the home off Kilby Rd., no one in the county has raised a fuss, Hooker said. The conversation at the last commission meeting was really more philosophical regarding the county’s options, she said.
Vanderlinden said his office occasionally gets calls asking about one property or another, but it isn’t a major concern for residents. There has never been an audit of how many currently exist in the Basin, he said.
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It has become a concern for some because of the toll the recession has taken on a few developers, Vanderlinden said. It’s not normally an issue the county worries about.
"Nobody ever says, ‘I’m going to build a house; I don’t know if I can get it done, but I’ll try,’" he said. "It’s a real thorny issue what can you do to make sure people finish projects they start?"
Private property rights protect landowners from any form of discipline or pressure in this area, he explained. It’s not unique to Summit County. As far as he knows, few government bodies in Utah can force someone to finish a project if they don’t want to.
One option is to require a bond, but builders complain that makes projects more expensive, and therefore increases the risk someone will run out of money, he said. Also, if the funding is gone, holding a bond doesn’t solve the problem.
"We can’t force your hand, we can’t make you get it finished, the provisions are just not there," he explained.