Tom Clyde: A perfectly lovely disaster
June 12, 2015
The County gave final approval to Silver Creek Village. It’s a project that has been on the books for years, going clear back to the Home Depot and industrial park approvals. So there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about. Density was set a long time ago, like it or not. So this Council should not get the full credit or blame for it.
But it is a huge project and will have a huge impact. There are better than 1,200 units. The unit size ranges from studio apartments for single resort workers to single-family homes for families with kids. The cheapest single-family house in the City limits appears to be about $700,000. Nobody is buying that on resort industry wages. Silver Creek should provide some comparatively reasonable housing options. At least it will be difficult to charge in-town prices for something that feels like it’s in Wyoming. So in that context, it’s probably a good thing.
If you assume a modest average of three people per unit, and all 1,290 units get built, that’s a population of 3,870 people. According to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, the populations of Kamas and Oakley are 1,900 and 1,500. The Silver Creek population could be a lot bigger if the housing mix shifts more towards families, and the families turn out to have more than one or two kids each. So in one project, we are welcoming in the equivalent of another Kamas and another Oakley, with maybe Francis to boot. It went through the process with very little comment.
The Park City schools are feeling cramped, not that it matters. Silver Creek Village is in the South Summit School District, so the kids there will get to drive past the Park City schools on their way over the mountain to Kamas. The buildings in the South Summit District are also feeling pretty snug these days. Duplicating Kamas and Oakley kind of sounds like they will need to duplicate school buildings, too. That whole issue is still unresolved. It’s the school boards’ problem, and the Utah Legislature has told cities and counties that they cannot consider school impacts in planning decisions. If that seems a little bit like planning a vacation but not giving any consideration to what clothes you might need, well, our legislature is a bunch of idiots.
But the part that really bothers me is that we have a street system that doesn’t work now. Kimball Junction, which is in its fourth iteration since I started driving years ago, doesn’t work. S.R. 248 backs up for miles every morning. While the City Council frets about idling at the Post Office, they ignore several hundred cars inching their way into town.
If the people who will live at Silver Creek Village work in Park City or Kimball Junction (and if we have done this to accommodate Salt Lake commuters, we’ve really screwed up), they will mostly get there in cars. Will it equal the existing traffic from Kamas Valley? Do we even have that data? A few will ride the bus, a few will bike along the rail trail — which would be pretty nice way to start the day at some times of year. But most will be in cars driving to work. Maybe they will drive the kids to school in Kamas first, and then come back to Park City, creating traffic both ways.
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There are two roads in and out of Silver Creek Village, and the both come together at the Burt Brothers roundabout. Every vehicle serving that community, at least the size of Kamas and Oakley combined, will be going through that roundabout. There are times when the year-old roundabout doesn’t work very well already. So let’s add the traffic generated by an additional 4,000 people, along with all the un-built density at Promontory and maybe a few more buildings in the industrial park, and, well, you get it.
I’ve been involved in the planning process around here for nearly 40 years in one way or another, from writing ordinances to sitting on a planning commission, to getting a lot of projects through the approval process (not all of them wonderful, either). I’m absolutely convinced that we are going at it entirely wrong. The planning effort is completely misdirected. Our planners spend months looking at the internal aspects of a project like Silver Creek Village. It will be lovely with parks and trails and designated bus stops. On-street parking is carefully regulated. But making it internally appealing is the developer’s job. Making it externally functional is the government’s job, and it’s not getting done. We simply aren’t looking outside the project boundaries to see how it fits with the community as a whole. So Silver Creek Village will be a perfectly lovely disaster.
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.