City Hall staffers have drafted a carefully worded statement intended to broadly outline a strategy for the municipal government to address climate change, asserting that there could be economic consequences alongside environmental changes that leaders should prepare to handle.
The statement has not been widely publicized. It was drafted as staffers continue their long-running work on updating City Hall's General Plan, a document that guides growth in the community. The Park City Planning Commission was scheduled to discuss the General Plan at a meeting on Tuesday night. The statement about climate change was included in the materials provided to the panel in anticipation of the meeting. It was not clear how much time the panel would spend on the topic.
The statement is written using the term "climate change." It does not mention the term "global warming" or one that is similar. There are several instances in the statement, though, that point to City Hall's concerns with a warming planet.
"While scientists agree that our planet's climate is changing, there is little consensus about the exact strategies to adopt. This does not mean that we should sit idly by and wait to respond to climate crises as they arise," the statement's opening sentence says.
Katie Cattan, a veteran planner at City Hall, drafted the statement. Cattan holds an environmental studies degree from the University of Vermont and has been heavily involved in the work on the General Plan.
"Mitigating for climate change complements good planning practices," Cattan said in an interview.
She said pedestrian upgrades, public transit and work force housing -- each addressed in some fashion in City Hall's planning process -- are among the steps officials already take in combating climate change. She said the statement is the first drafted by the Planning Department recognizing a "local to global connection" regarding climate change.
The statement will be added to the General Plan if it is endorsed by leaders. The Planning Commission will eventually make a recommendation to the Park City Council. The elected officials are not bound by the lower panel's recommendation. The General Plan currently includes an environmental element, but it does not address climate change. The environmental element was adopted more than a decade ago.
The statement under consideration claims climate change could bring drought to the region, heat waves and a drop in the snow pack, calling them "probable scenarios." That could lead to the snow melting earlier than it does now and wildfires, it says, noting that climate change "creates economic uncertainties."
"Our economy is heavily dependent on snow, which our mountains may or may not continue to receive in the future. If our snow disappears, will tourists still come to Park City, or will our town decline as it did in the early 20th Century with the fall of silver prices," the statement reads.
The General Plan is intentionally broad, but it is crucial in growth discussions. City Hall's development rules are not detailed in the General Plan, but the document is influential over time as leaders consider changes to rules or make new ones.
Park City leaders, most notably three-term Mayor Dana Williams, have stressed environmentalism and the wider theory of sustainability in the decade-plus since the 2002 Winter Olympics. They contend that a warming planet could someday threaten the ski industry with devastating impacts on the area's economy, which is driven by tourism and tourism-related development.
There has been a move toward environmental practices in that time at City Hall and among some of the major players in the private sector, including the mountain resorts. The resorts adhere to the same thinking about the potential impact of a warming planet on the industry. City Hall, as examples, has greatly increased the amount of cleaner-burning fuels and renewable energies in use by the municipal government through fleet purchases and facility upgrades.