City Council discusses Mountain Accord, possible Cottonwoods mass transit
September 5, 2014
The Mountain Accord was on the Park City Council’s agenda for its Thursday meeting and councilors expressed their hopes and concerns for the ongoing initiative, while approving of an economic impact study.
The Mountain Accord is a collaboration of entities on both the Wasatch Front and Back including municipal, county, state and federal participants. It seeks collaboration among all the various stakeholders to plan out the area’s future obstacles and opportunities, focusing on four distinct areas: environment, recreation, transportation and economy.
Ann Ober of Park City Municipal led Thursday’s discussion with the council. She noted at the outset of the meeting that, even if the ambitious Accord is unable to reach the final decisions and agreements it seeks, it will still be a worthwhile project. The relationships being built as participants meet and discuss the issues will be valuable in the future in times of trouble when they may need to call on one another, she said.
Ober described the current stage of the Accord as the "dreaming" phase, when each of the four main groups are winnowing down their options to their ideal visions. Those groups — environment, recreation, transportation and economy — will each develop a map of the area that shows their ideal vision. Those four maps will then be overlaid upon one another and the sure-to-be-many conflicting areas will need to be negotiated.
This dreaming phase is also valuable in that participants from Park City may come up with ideas they want to implement on their own, such as environmental protections that they hadn’t previously considered, Ober added.
One area the city is highly concerned with is transportation. Mayor Jack Thomas, while noting that he is "excited" by the City’s involvement with the Accord, repeatedly expressed concern that the transportation group is making too many assumptions about a future winter transportation corridor through the Cottonwood Canyons that would connect Park City to the Wasatch Front.
Parley’s Canyon is the far more important transportation corridor, Thomas said, and the assumption that a "new route over the mountains will solve all our problems" needs to be continually challenged.
Councilor Liza Simpson, who is participating in the Accord’s transportation group, assured Thomas that she has been "very clear" about those same concerns. "Blunt, even," she said, to the other councilors’ amusement.
Economic impact study
The Mountain Accord schedule originally called for an economic impact study to have been completed in the near future, but Ober said that study has been pushed back to Phase 2 of the Accord (it is currently in Phase 1).
Would a new transportation corridor through the Cottonwoods help or hurt Park City economically? Would it have more or less demand for hotel rooms and restaurants?
"We just don’t know," Ober said.
So, Park City is commissioning its own high-level, "gut check" economic impact study of two concepts — a mass transit connection through the Cottonwoods as well as One Wasatch, the ski resort interconnect concept announced by the resorts earlier this year. One Wasatch is being discussed by the Accord’s economic and recreation groups, but not by its environmental or transportation groups.
The study is expected to cost less than $15,000, of which the Park City Chamber/Bureau has agreed to contribute $3,500. It should be completed by Oct. 1.
There will be ongoing opportunities for the public to weigh in on, and learn about, the Mountain Accord’s progress.
The next community forum will be next Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at Park City High School’s lecture hall, 1750 Kearns Blvd.