Reasons to vote this year
September 23, 2016
The stench of the presidential election has overwhelmed the rest of the election cycle. The first big televised debate is coming up Monday. I'm doing the only responsible thing, and going so deep into Canyonlands that I'm completely out of range of it. Just in case, I will wrap myself in tin foil and crawl under a big rock while it is going on. It's just too much.
But there are other races and issues on the ballot. There is another chance to vote against Congressman Rob Bishop. Senator Mike Lee is up for re-election this year. He could have been defeated if the Utah Democrats had been able to come up with a reasonable candidate. Instead, he is being opposed by a grocery checker with no relevant knowledge or experience. OK, so all of the national races are unappealing.
You still shouldn't sit it out. There are some local issues that deserve careful attention. Park City is asking for approval of a $25 million bond to buy Bonanza Flat from the bank that foreclosed on United Park City Mines/Talisker. It's 1,300 acres or so of very pretty, high alpine property. The proposal limits the spending to purchasing just that property, and nothing else. It's not like the general open space bonds passed years ago that set up a committee to shop for open space. It's specific to this property, and specific to using it as open space.
I've run into a surprising number of people who say they don't know where Bonanza Flat is. Kind of hard to convince people to vote for a tax increase for that. The City itself really can't be a cheerleader for the bond issue. But it's an important decision, and needs to be studied in greater depth than just pointing over yonder at the meadow on the other side of Empire Pass, and hoping people will vote for it. What recreation uses are proposed? Is it covered with toxic mine waste? What are the impacts on Park City if Wasatch County, which has planning jurisdiction over it, approved 4 units to the acre and we suddenly have the traffic from 5,200 units, plus the 400 Brighton Estates lots, all trying to get to and from home on Marsac Avenue?
In the grand scope of Park City's excess, $25 million is pocket change, but the idea of purchasing this land needs to be discussed and explained. It's important.
The other big issue is a package of sales tax increases that would apply county-wide, amounting to half a percent. By itself, not a significant amount, but added to the general sales tax, resort tax, restaurant tax, room tax, it suddenly makes the sales tax item on your vacation bill look pretty substantial. The new tax money would go for transportation-related items, including building roundabouts at Jeremy Ranch and funding commuter bus service to Kamas.
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The county has a website that tries to explain it. According to the information online, they will initiate an optimized implementation of a scalable transportation system that incentivizes alternate transportation modalities through the use of… and yadda yadda yadda. I think it means we have to ride the bus.
Traffic is wrecking our little patch of paradise. The approved density at the Canyons base is only about a third built. Silver Creek Village is 1,300 units that could house 4,000 people or more, all of them driving through the roundabout at Burt Brothers. Promontory is only a third built. Wasatch County has approved several thousand more units around Jordanelle. And there is more density in the pipeline. What nobody has approved is new roads. We haven't approved new roads because there isn't any place to put them. And we can't afford to rip down million dollar houses to build them. And we really don't want to pave the last inch anyway.
So finding a credible solution to the traffic problem is critical. Because of the weirdness of our housing and job markets, every morning 11,000 Summit County residents get up and drive someplace else for work. At the same time, 14,000 people wake up someplace else and drive into Summit County for work. That's nearly 30,000 people who pass each other twice a day at Parleys Summit. Then just for good measure, there are about 9,000 of us who drive around the County without leaving.
An efficient mass transit system is the key to our future. But somebody needs to present a plan that shows me a practical alternative to driving my own car everywhere, how it works, how long it will take, and so on. It's a cultural change much bigger and a lot more complicated than leashing our dogs, and we all know how successful that has been.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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