Tall buildings: ‘Poor choice’
July 29, 2006
Worries that a big-city skyline could be built along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard stalled an effort Wednesday night to reshape the development potential of a large swath of Park City.
The Park City Planning Commission failed to reach an agreement regarding how the so-called North of Main district should be regulated, deciding to delay a vote on a wide-ranging package of rules in the district, sometimes called NoMa.
The officials were especially careful when considering whether taller buildings should be allowed in the neighborhood. They were worried about other issues, such as how large businesses in the district should be and whether regular Parkites had provided enough input.
The Planning Commission instead delayed their vote until a later meeting, potentially on Aug. 23. The Planning Commission had been scheduled to possibly recommend whether the Park City Council should adopt or reject amendments to the city’s General Plan, a document that outlines how the government wants the city to grow.
The City Council holds the authority over such matters and, had the Planning Commission recommended in favor of the changes, the elected officials would likely have considered them by mid-September.
Jim Barth, a Planning Commissioner, did not garner the votes required in his attempt to favorably forward the changes to the City Council.
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Afterward, Rodman Jordan, a developer in the district who is leading the NoMa efforts, said he had expected that the Planning Commission on Wednesday night would endorse the changes.
"There’s no skyscrapers. That’s poppycock," Jordan said, referring to the complaints about the potential building heights in the district, centered along the Bonanza Drive corridor and spreading to much of Prospector and other spots north of the Main Street core.
Currently, City Hall’s zoning regulations in the neighborhood usually limit building heights to 35 feet, typically a little more than three stories, with an allowance for another five feet if a building has a pitched roof. If part of a larger project, the government may approve a taller building in exchange for concessions from the developer, such as, possibly, additional open space.
Jordan desires that the government loosen the rules to allow buildings to climb to between four and six stories, or between 45 and 65 feet tall, and told the commissioners that he prefers taller buildings to designs that call for smaller ones that sprawl through the neighborhood.
"The mid-rise works ideally," he said after the meeting.
Mark Fischer, a property owner in NoMa teaming with Jordan, said the designs of affordable housing in the district hinge on the taller buildings. If the housing is built alongside more expensive digs, he indicated, the buildings would be required to be taller because land prices prohibit projects that are spread out. He preferred that the affordable housing is located in the district, in taller buildings.
The Planning Commission hesitated when talking about the taller buildings, acknowledging, for instance, that neighbors would complain if the bigger structures were erected. There was some support among the commissioners for the taller buildings, though, if they were designed well.
During a hearing, there was opposition to the taller buildings but some support from a Park City Mountain Resort official, Jenni Smith, who wanted taller buildings to remain an option.
Greg Friedman, who lives in the nearby Claimjumper Condominiums on Homestake Road, said the tall buildings would not be situated well since NoMa is centrally located.
"The increase in heights is a poor choice," he said.
Sarah Klingenstein, who lives in Park Meadows, questioned lots of what is contained in the NoMa package, including the heights.
"How many would really grasp the significance of these changes," she said, suggesting that more details are needed regarding the mixture of businesses intended for NoMa, the role of the city’s ski resorts may play and whether the developers plan to court Parkites or visitors.
Led by Jordan, merchants in the NoMa district have pressed City Hall for improvements like road upgrades and helped craft the proposed amendment to the General Plan. Jordan envisions the district turning into a hotspot full of boutiques and restaurants, far different from its current iteration as a place for more utilitarian purposes like offices and Laundromats.
The amendments address a variety of issues, including housing, open space, transportation and the character of the neighborhood. They call for both locally owned and national-chain stores in the district, with a maximum size of 20,000 square feet unless future Planning Commissioners allow bigger spaces for grocery stores and theaters.
"Redstone is what it is. It appeals to that particular sector of the marketplace," said Bruce Erickson, a consultant hired by City Hall and a former member of the Planning Commission, adding that he expects that the stores in NoMa will be swankier than those typically in Salt Lake City.
But Mary Wintzer, who has large property holdings in the NoMa district and is a critic of Jordan’s plans, said she does not want the neighborhood to model itself after Redstone, the Kimball Junction shopping area, argued against buildings that are five stories tall and said she worries about the district becoming a spot that caters exclusively to tourists.
"Most citizens of the town don’t understand the repercussions," she said.