Outgoing Planning Commissioner: cohousing dispute had role in shake-up
November 29, 2013
An outgoing member of the Park City Planning Commission said in an interview this week the Park City Council weakened the influential panel by opting to appoint newcomers instead of the incumbents who sought another term.
Charlie Wintzer, a longtime Parkite who has spent time as chairman of the Planning Commission, will leave the panel in early January as a result of the City Council’s decision not to reappoint him. He is a two-term member of the Planning Commission and has served more than eight years.
Wintzer said discussions about what is known as a cohousing development might have created a divide between the Planning Commission and the City Council. The cohousing project, proposed along the lower stretch of Park Avenue, would be an unorthodox development in which the people who plan to live there will have a significant role in the designs. City Hall intends to sell the cohousing group the land for the project.
The Planning Commission and people with properties nearby have concerns. The panel has not cast a vote. Over the past year, Wintzer said, the Planning Commission and the City Council have moved apart on the enforcement of City Hall’s development rules, which are outlined in a document called the Land Management Code.
He cited the discussions about the cohousing project as an example of an issue that has widened the gap between the two City Hall bodies.
"The City Council is willing to ignore the Land Management Code and neighboring property owners’ rights to get affordable housing," he said.
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The residences that would be built in the cohousing project would be priced at rates below the market in the neighborhood.
Wintzer, a general contractor with interests in the Iron Horse district, had sought another four-year term on the Planning Commission. His wife, Mary Wintzer, unsuccessfully sought a City Council seat during this year’s campaign.
Wintzer said elected officials told him he had missed too many Planning Commission meetings over the past year as they explained the decision not to reappoint him. He said he suspects the decision was not based on the missed meetings and he could only "speculate" why he was not reappointed.
Wintzer is pleased with his service on the Planning Commission, saying that the panel’s performance improved each year he was a member. He is happy with the team-building efforts between the Planning Commission and City Hall staffers. Wintzer said the Planning Commission did its best to protect Old Town.
"I think the Planning Commission was moving exactly like the community wanted," he said.
The Planning Commission terms of Wintzer and two others had been extended until the end of the year to allow them to continue to work on the redo of City Hall’s General Plan, an overarching document that guides growth. One of others whose term was extended, Brooke Hontz, was also not reappointed.
The City Council named Preston Campbell, Steve Joyce and John Phillips to the Planning Commission. Two will replace Wintzer and Hontz while the other will serve as the replacement for Mayor-elect Jack Thomas, who will leave the Planning Commission for Park City’s highest office.
Thomas campaigned on a platform that was heavy on his background as a Planning Commissioner and his vision for City Hall’s development processes. Wintzer said Thomas will not be in as strong a position as he takes office as a result of the appointments to the Planning Commission.
"I think you weaken Jack by doing this," Wintzer said.
Mayor Dana Williams was involved in the talks about the appointments, but he does not hold a vote unless it is needed to break a tie. He declined to discuss details about the decision but said the interview process between the elected officials and the field of Planning Commission candidates was more thorough than any other during his 12 years in office.
The Park Record was unable to contact Hontz.