Developers, and a dang cow
February 29, 2008
Pat Putt over his 13 years at City Hall helped shape how some big Park City developments are designed — Empire Pass and Quinn’s Junction, as examples.
But when Putt talks about the controversies during his tenure with the government, he brings up what might seem to others to be a minor tiff when put against the high-stakes development disputes that riveted the city while he led the Planning Department.
It’s that cow sculpture in Cows ice-cream shop on Main Street. It was the mid-1990s, and the owner of the shop at the time put the cow statue outside, prompting City Hall to write a ticket because, officials determined, the statue was an illegal sign.
Putt recalls making a key statement saying the cow statue should be forced inside the shop. Critics who say the local government’s rules on Main Street are too tight still occasionally rib City Hall about the Cows dispute.
"What it teaches me is that in our zeal for aesthetics, we shouldn’t become so restrictive we lose the sense of fun and our sense of humor," Putt says.
Putt stepped down as the Planning director on Wednesday, ending a run at City Hall during which he became one of the most influential people in the local government, with his mark stretching from Empire Pass to Quinn’s Junction. He was the go-to person during years of Planning Commission meetings, and he was a key figure as City Hall rewrote development rules.
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Putt, who is 48 years old and arrived at City Hall in 1995 after stints in municipal planning in Breckenridge, Colo., and Flagstaff, Ariz., expects he will become a consultant and continue teaching on a part-time basis at the University of Utah. He says he will consider consulting with the public and private sectors.
"I think Park City is an incredible community," Putt says. "It’s about as unique as you’re ever going to find."
Putt talks with confidence as he describes what he considers some of City Hall’s accomplishments as it negotiated with developers. He is pleased with the efforts that resulted in an agreement to build a hospital and the headquarters-training center for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association at Quinn’s Junction, the largely undeveloped intersection of U.S. 40 and S.R. 248 along Park City’s eastern entryway.
He says Quinn’s Junction posed a "dilemma" for Park City and Summit County officials, but leaders in the city and the county "seized people’s imagination." That, Putt says, may ensure Quinn’s Junction grows in a different fashion than Kimball Junction, which, with its shopping centers and parking lots, is often criticized as not fitting with the mountain setting of the area.
Putt wants Quinn’s Junction, which is under pressure from developers, to exude the natural setting, healthy living and recreation.
"What makes Quinn’s Junction, I think, so successful is when you enter Park City from that area, you see a very unique entry portal that says a lot about who we are," he says.
Still, Putt says, Parkites must rethink overarching development issues, in his estimation, to ensure that the city grows in a fashion that does not greatly harm the environment. During his administration Mayor Dana Williams, who came to political prominence in the 1990s leading the local development watchdog Citizens Allied for Responsible growth, has trumpeted those efforts, a theory that officials call ‘sustainability.’
Putt argues in favor of developments that are designed to be compact and efficient, methods to encourage people to walk and takes buses. That, leaders have long said, would cut traffic in the city.
Old Town has those characteristics and the redevelopment of the North of Main district off Bonanza Drive could be designed in that manner, he says. He hopes a development proposal known as Park City Heights near Quinn’s Junction follows those ideas.
"We’ll never solve the development issue," he says. "We’ll never be able to stop development, nor should we. We need to evolve as a community."
Empire Pass designed well, Putt contends
Pat Putt, the Planning director who left City Hall on Wednesday, contends that Empire Pass, the most controversial development decision of his tenure, is a well-designed project.
United Park City Mines shepherded Empire Pass, which was once known as Flagstaff, through Park City’s development process in the 1990s, with Putt being a pivotal figure in what were long-running talks.
City Hall annexed the land for the Deer Valley development after a bitter dispute between United Park, City Hall and many Parkites who were leery of the plans.
Putt says the agreement between the local government and United Park, which Talisker Corp. later took over, preserved lots of acreage as open space. He says the construction so far in Empire Pass is "equal to or better than any other resort area in the world."
"It exceeded my expectation — the quality of the construction, the sensitivity to the environment in which they were building," Putt says.
Putt praises the demeanor of United Park officials of the era, saying Hank Rothwell, who led the company, and Rory Murphy, who was the No. 2 development figure at United Park then, were "honorable" during the sometimes-strained talks. He also praises the efforts of Talisker Corp., which took over United Park and is now developing Empire Pass.
Putt in quotes
"Pat has been a visionary leader and mentor to the staff who’s committed 12 years of his professional life to a city he believes in." – Brooks Robinson, City Hall’s principal planner
"He did a good job balancing the bureaucratic part of his job with the design and planning realities of his job." — David Belz, Parkwood Place developer
"I don’t think that Pat Putt has fundamentally changed a lick since I met him 15 years ago. He’s the same decent and honest man he always has been." — Rory Murphy, Silver Star developer and Planning Commissioner
"He’s smart. He’s got a good grasp of all the planning principles . . . He’s a visionary, and he has a good sense of humor." — Park City Councilman Jim Hier