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Milepost 2019 E-Edition

Welcome to the Milepost 2019 e-edition

Final Word: Summit and Wasatch counties are becoming one entity

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

I was out with some equally fossilized friends the other night, and the conversation turned to growth and the destruction of the world as we know it. It was, I suspect, the exact same conversation that others had 40 years ago when we all moved to Park City. Only they were talking about us. Change has been constant here. I guess it’s constant everywhere, but in a town with an economy that has always depended on such undependables as silver prices, snowpack, and the vagaries of second home tax laws, it seems like change happens more rapidly here.

This is a very different place than it was a generation ago. And we are to blame because we made it happen.

We really have no business complaining about reaping what we sowed. But the traffic really stinks. We’ve polished off all the rough edges, somehow forgetting that it was the rough edges that gave the place its appeal in the first place. Everything is structured, permitted, and administrated. If you want to do something really spontaneous, you first have to form a 501(c)(3) corporation and hire an executive director at six figures to manage the permits.

Yes, it was unpleasant having to fight your way through a pack of dogs to get to the Post Office, and seldom did your shoes escape without stepping in it. But you also knew most of the dogs, and seeing them in full scrum confirmed that a friend was in the Post Office or the laundromat across the street, and led to blowing off an hour of work over coffee at the Deli.

But those days are gone. We are no longer a quirky little mountain town. We are now a metropolitan area that will soon sprawl continuously from Summit Park to Daniels, east of Heber, and all the way around Jordanelle. Blink a couple of times and we will become a city of 100,000 people. If none of the jurisdictions involved ever approves another unit, what’s already approved gets us there. They are strip-mining condominiums in Wasatch County. Every time I drive into town, there is another gouge taken out of the mountainside.

Much as I’d like to turn back the clock to the one-stoplight days (and by the time the first one went in, we needed it), it isn’t possible. 100,000 people is a certainty. 150,000 is not off the table. So deal with it.

We need to quit planning and governing like we are that long-lost quirky town that got polished into the sort of gem where Gorsuch seems like a perfect fit. We need to start dealing with the reality that we are a mid-sized city. Park City is just a neighborhood in the greater metroplex. That means figuring out what makes mid-sized cities desirable places to live, and fostering that. The parallel is now places like Bend, and Traverse City. Toto, we’re not like Telluride any more.

There is a jurisdictional chowder in place that doesn’t make sense. There are planning commissions in Park City, Snyderville Basin, Eastern Summit County, Wasatch County, Jordanelle Basin, Hideout, Francis, Kamas, Oakley, Midway and probably others. That’s a whole lot of planning, but when as the edges blur, nothing meshes very well. It’s all focused internally, without much attention paid to what’s happening across the jurisdictional boundary.

The school district boundaries make no sense at all. There are more school districts than we need, and the tax base isn’t located where the kids live. That’s a problem. People in Hideout get their mail in Kamas, send their kids to school in Heber, and think they live in Park City. I see confused Hideout-ites in the Kamas Post Office all the time trying to make sense of it. They can’t because it doesn’t.

We need to be dealing with regional planning, with all those jurisdictions working together, and the artificial boundaries ignored. Planning commissions will spend months on a vacant lot in historic Newpark, but not five minutes on a project of 1,300 units on the other side of an arbitrary line. Silver Creek Village, Black Rock, Mayflower—those projects are huge, but not discussed because they are somebody else’s jurisdiction.

Despite we old timers’ grousing, the Wasatch Back is still pretty appealing. Somebody is buying all those condos around Jordanelle, and every week another farm in Francis bites the dust. While some of us look at it and recoil, others have discovered paradise, and are willing to pay astounding prices for a piece of it.

If it’s going to work, we need to be dealing with the whole enchilada. Existing towns need to retain their identities within the whole. Hideout needs a downtown, or at least a 7-Eleven. People live and work here like it is a single community, but we manage things like it is several separate continents. That needs to stop. The Wasatch Back needs to be managed as one entity.

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. This is a reprint from a column printed in The Park Record July 13, 2019.

Environment: Clean and green

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

Park City is really trying to be green even when it’s white outside. There is an anti-idling ordinance for your vehicle, bans on plastic bags at grocery stores, 46 new EV charging stations, curbside recycling, and even electric buses. But what’s next? A lot.

According to Park City’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, Luke Cartin, the fossil fuel footprint for resident business and local government is around $245 million every year. That includes all fossil-based energy imported, or used for visitation, such as airplanes and vehicles, which originates from all over the world, specifically for this resort town. Over $213 million of that total is from oil, $11 million spent on natural gas and $21 million from coal. That’s a staggering sum, and Park City is attempting to lead the way in changing those numbers.

Sustainability is obtainable with the correct plan, and Park City has vowed to hit net zero carbon emissions and rely on 100% renewable electricity in city operations by the year 2022; 2030 for the entire community. “It’s the most ambitious program in the nation,” says Cartin.

The goal is admirable. “For sustainability we have to start with energy,” says Park City Manager Diane Foster. “We have to work with the economics of the power company.” To that end, during the 2018 Utah legislative session, Park City partnered with Salt Lake City, Moab and Summit County to help sponsor legislation (HB411) to allow Rocky Mountain Power to offer a path for these customers to net-100% renewable energy. Those four entities represent 15% of all of Utah’s electricity, so the economics are powerful, and without this law the path to net-zero by 2030 would have been challenging.

It passed the state Senate 23-6 and was then signed by Governor Gary Herbert. Now the Utah Public Service Commission is defining the rules, rates and expectations for the for the program. Financial costs are borne by only these areas, and customers can opt out of the benefits if they wish. Supporters are hopeful that this program will be the blueprint for the future reduction in carbon emissions as renewable energy sources continue to grow and fossil fuels decline. It’s the future.

Health: If you have your health

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

This spring, more than 800 Summit County residents and workers gave the Summit County Health Department a piece of their mind by completing an online Community Health Assessment over five weeks. It covered every issue but mental health, which is being addressed separately through the Mental Health and Substance Abuse program. And what did the Health Department find?

Over half of the respondents described themselves as “somewhat healthy”, and 39% said they were “healthy,” affirming that we are the 2nd healthiest county in the state, which is good news. “Public health doesn’t get a lot of attention, as long as the restaurants are inspected, clean water comes from the tap and infectious diseases are controlled,” says Derek Siddoway, the public information officer for the Health Department, so it was gratifying to have that many people complete the survey.

The public’s input is vital. The survey addressed obesity, chronic disease, environmental factors, funding and communication. It turned out that the two top concerns in the open-ended survey were drug use and air quality.
“The information was presented to the Board of Health in July, and should be adopted by the end of the year,” says Deputy Director Phil Bondurant, adding that, “The survey identified successes and failures.” For example, there are still some areas of the county where over 10% of students have not had their vaccinations, which they all believe is a communication problem.

“We’re trying not to be reactive with issues,” says Siddoway. “We’ll figure out what the public needs, then allocate the resources.” Concerns about air quality, environment and climate is one action area. The Sustainability Department is now within the Health Department, and a new energy analyst will be added to the team to review the county’s facilities and fleet. Another outcome could be the capping of the number of tobacco sales permits, according to Health Department Director Rich Bullough.

So, the community has provided the input, and now it’s up to the professionals to determine the course of action. It’s all about determining the needs of the citizens of Summit County.

Nonprofit: Taking care of each other

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

Nearly two decades ago, a small group of community organizers, nonprofit representatives and elected officials met to discuss the possible creation of a community foundation in Park City. It would accept donations and issue grants to the needs of the few dozen nonprofit organizations. While hesitant at first, nonprofits soon saw the value in working together for the good of the community.

Today there are well over 100 nonprofits, and the Park City Community Foundation is a partner with them for the good of Park City and beyond. “We are problem solvers for urgent needs in the community,” says executive director Katie Wright. “We invest in people and place.”

“We know that if kids have quality care, early on, that they are more likely to succeed,” says Wright, describing the goal of the Early Childhood Alliance. This program ensures that children, up to age three in Summit County, have opportunities to learn, thrive and grow. Another program funded by the Women’s Giving Fund, PC Tots, has a wait list of 84.

In an active and sports-oriented town, kids shouldn’t be left out because they can’t afford programs. “The Beano Solomon fund is making sure that all children have access to sports and rec facilities,” she adds. “The goal is for 20% of participants to be Latino.” After the mental health and substance abuse initiative of the past few years, she says, “We have Increased access to mental resources now. Utah has highest rate of teen suicide nationwide.”
The Community Foundation plans to do more long-term outreach to
seniors and Latinos focusing on social equity in the community, education
and early childhood, affordable housing and inclusion in the community.

But in the 24-hours of giving, Live PC Give PC will take place once again on November 8, 2019. Last year $2.4 million was donated. Once again, the Park City Giving Guide, sponsored by the Park City Board of Realtors, can introduce newcomers to the many great organizations that deserve their support.

Arts & Culture: Location, location, location

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

Utah’s sweeping vistas, including forested mountains and stark desert landscapes, have attracted filmmakers since John Ford shot his iconic Westerns in the 1940s. Thelma and Louise, Easy Rider, Jeremiah Johnson and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were all partly filmed here. And they’re still coming.

Carolyn Leone, president of the Motion Picture Association of Utah, says, “They come for how beautiful it is, then for how good the crew is. It’s a clean industry, leaves lots of money, don’t leave anything but cash. Film and television is a big economic driver, but especially poignant in rural communities. Every gas station benefits; every hotel benefits.”

More and more movies are being filmed on location away from Hollywood. Tax incentives in many states are one reason for this. In Utah, that means a 25% post-performance payout, for projects that spend a minimum of a half million dollars here. “Incentives make it a different business model,” says Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce. “There’s a cap on the program. It was $9 million this year, and we’ll spend it all.”

But it’s not all about the money. Besides the scenery and locations, there’s a highly trained group of film crew professionals here. Salt Lake International Airport is another, as we’re just 90 minutes from Los Angeles. And even though Utah is a right-to-work state, where you don’t have to belong to a union, most production companies are signatories to union standards and wages. “Wages are good; even the lowest employee is getting $150 a day,” says Pearce. “And while the number of productions has decreased since 2015,” says Pearce, “the size and length has increased to large television series and feature films.”

And the economic impacts can be huge. Taylor Sheridan, who is writing and directing the Paramount Network series Yellowstone with Kevin Costner, shot the feature film Wind River here. It generated over $28 million locally and employed over 300 local cast and crew. Yellowstone has shot its past two seasons here, and filming for their third season is underway.

It also helps that the Sundance Institute and yearly Sundance Film Festival showcase what’s going on here. It pumps over $100 million into the Utah economy yearly. State of the art facilities also attract productions. Yellowstone has been using the Park City Film Studios for the past three years as their base, with its three giant sound stages, and all of the support facilities needed for major productions.

While ski resort infrastructure differs from that needed by the film industry, it’s one way to diversify the economy. “It’s part of our climate-change adaptability model,” says Park City Manager Diane Foster. Dozens of crewmembers need lodging and food. Lumber and hardware are bought locally. Extras can get up to $100 a day, but they might have to sit in a driving blizzard, as they did one May night at the South Summit High School football stadium, during the filming of Mark Wahlberg’s new feature, Good Joe Bell.

But it’s still all in fun for the locals for the most part to see their favorite actors. There can be some downsides too, says Donald Fulton, owner of the Kozy Kafe in Echo. With dozens of trucks, trailers, catering vans and camera vehicles, crews can seemingly take over an area while they’re there. Fulton says that some small budget productions have taken advantage of the locals. “Just extend the locals the courtesy so they’ll be invited back,” he says.

But it’s obvious that John Ford and Robert Redford knew a good place to film when they came to Utah. Roll ‘em.

Sports: A place to play

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

Deer Valley Resort
While Deer Valley Resort has seen a few changes after being acquired by Alterra in 2017, it aims to retain its identity. “The goal is still to be the ultimate in customer service,” says President and Chief Operating Officer Todd Shallen. “We will always stay true to what makes Deer Valley special.”

But more change is coming.

One improvement for the upcoming season is the use of electronic gates to read lift passes for a couple of reasons. “It’ll let us know the patterns, like where people are skiing,” says Shallan. “They will also reduce fraud, because your picture will come up at the gate.” Shallan is a data guy who is excited about collecting information to allocate resources and even customize some ski packages, and he sees the new gates as key to that.

“We are going to be doing upgrades to both Snow Park and Silver Lake Lodges for the 2020-21 season,” he says. “They stay the same size, but with some internal changes.” There are also some early discussions of the development of the Snow Park parking areas. The overall approval was part of the original development agreement from the 1970s, which included 420,000 square feet of resort condominiums, townhouses and commercial space. “We’ll see plans within the next 12 months,” says Shallan.

Deer Valley is also looking at increasing the number of parking spaces in the existing lot, by utilizing some of the periphery. This will add approximately 200 more spaces, the same number of vehicles that were utilizing the on-street parking along Deer Valley Drive. Deer Valley has also secured a 199-year lease on 25% of Deer Valley’s skiable acres with Extell Development Company, which will be developing the Mayflower Mountain resort in the next few years.

The 2018-19 season was a banner winter for snow and skiers. “We were up 14% from prior years in paid visits,” Shallen says, “and Utah was up 24% total visitation. It was great to see how the mountain reacts when it’s busy.”

He also sees the Ikon Pass as key to resort, and industry, growth, now with 41 destinations. Ikon passes were about 15% of total visitation, and about 20 to 25% of Ikon holders formerly had a paid pass. Ski vacationers are often buying Ikon passes ahead of time and saving a bundle compared to purchasing day passes. “The average passholder is 10 to 12 years younger than the average guest,” he says. “Ikon, and the Epic Pass, are opening up the ski industry to the next generation.” But for now, snowboarders need not apply, as Deer Valley is only one of three American resorts that restricts them. “People come here because we are ski only,” he adds.

Shallan sees being part of a large group of resorts as an big advantage. “We’re individual resorts, but still a collective,” he says. “This is not top-down management.” But overall, he is very positive about the future of Deer Valley and skiing in the Wasatch. “Utah is a great place to do business!”

Park City Mountain
Vail Resorts’ multi-resort Epic Pass changed the ski industry forever. The Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective passes soon followed suit. “It has made skiing and snowboarding more accessible than it had ever been and provides a more convenient and affordable option for all guests,” says Margo Van Ness, Director of Communications at Park City Mountain. “The Epic Pass, as with all of our season pass products, is also an insurance policy against fluctuations in weather and because of the geographic diversity of our resorts; it ensures that our guests will be able to go wherever the best snow conditions may be.”

They also offer five days of free skiing and a lesson to kids with the Epic SchoolKids program, as well as the Epic Military Pass, a deeply discounted pass for just $129.

New on Park City Mountain this year is the new Over and Out lift, which will whisk skiers from the bottom of the Tombstone Express Lift to the top of Sunrise, which greatly reduces travel time between the two resort bases. The new High Meadow Park near the top of the Red Pine Gondola on the Canyons Village side is designed just for beginning skiers and riders, with wide-open slopes and great adventure trails. The Mid-Mountain Lodge has also been renovated, and a hearty lunch on the deck is always memorable.

After lunch, visitors can sign up for a free guided tour of historic mining sites on the mountain, with the Silver to Slopes Tour and learn about the history and heritage of all of this mining structures visible on the sides of the runs.

The Park City Mountain base parking lot will also be undergoing changes in the next few years. These 10 acres will be redeveloped to feature a new hotel and spa, condominiums, commercial space and parking garages. On the green side, Park City Mountain has also committed to hit net zero emissions by the year 2030. There will also be zero waste directed to the landfill by that same year and will eliminate all single-use plastic products at their facilities.

Mayflower Mountain Resort
There are big developments, and then there are huge developments. The Mayflower Mountain Resort is the latter. It’s been three decades since we’ve seen a brand-new ski resort proposed. This 5,600-acre property sits on the eastern porch of Deer Valley in Wasatch County. According to Extell Development, the first of three hotels there will offer 388 hotel rooms and 55 private condominiums. That’s over 600,000 square feet of space. Administered by the Military Installation Development Authority (MIDA), 100 of the hotel rooms will be reserved for members of our armed forces with prices based on rank. The resort could cost one billion dollars once it’s all built out.

The proposal spans hundreds of skiable acres, the hotels, a public recreation center, a quarter of a million square feet of commercial space, 1,500 residences, and nearly 100,000 square feet of worker housing. Construction can’t begin, however, until the new Jordanelle Parkway is completed, likely next spring. While it’s too early to know if they will reach an operating agreement with Deer Valley Resort, Extell hopes to have skiers on the mountain for the 2021-22 ski season.

Visitors: Visit Park City

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

More people are visiting Park City than ever before. They come from all around the world to experience not just Utah snow, but summer biking, concerts, restaurants and special events. It’s really got anything a vacationer could want.

Bill Malone, the President and CEO of the Park City Chamber and Visitor’s Bureau, has seen a lot of changes over the past 20 years as Park City’s brand has grown. “Our primary foreign market now is Australia,” he says, “followed by Mexico, the UK, Brazil and Germany.” And with Easter next year coming in a bit early on April 12, there will be plenty of visitors from Mexico and Brazil who traditionally travel then, he notes.

While our extraordinary snow year last season drew 17% more skiers, lodging only rose a little over two percent, perhaps because skiers are skiing different area resorts. “People know they can have a good vacation whether there’s 300 or 500 inches of snow,” Malone says. This upcoming season, Vail Resorts has added 17 new ski areas to their Epic Pass, opening up a brand-new pool of visitors. “People from these other areas can access Utah for their dream ski vacation for the first time,” he adds. As the Park City economic region expands, he also sees more opportunity for visitors and residents. “Our customers don’t care where the county line is,” he says, referring to the greater Park City resort economy.

And meetings have become big business too. Malone says, “From May through October, more of our sales are corporate meetings. Over half of our business is meetings.” Who wouldn’t choose a bustling resort to attract attendees? They’re great visitors. “They aren’t paying their airfare or for activities, so they shop with a nice credit card,” Malone adds. Meeting planners also take note of Park City and Summit County’s sustainability goals, which are some of the most ambitious in the nation. “They take that into account when they book. They want to ensure that we are following best practices.”

Park City lacks one major facility, however: a large convention center. Malone says that they have had to turn away some large conventions because there’s just not enough meeting space in town. “Partnering with the Chamber, the Canyons Village Management Association is right now creating a feasibility study for a convention center,” says Malone. And the Chamber has the resources to promote more business; they’re funded to the tune of over $8.6 million from the transient room tax.

“In Summit County, the Pendry Montage just broke ground on a new hotel at Canyons Village,” he adds. “And, Blue Sky Ranch just hosted the launch of the brand-new Mercedes line.” A successful Winter Olympics bid for 2030 or 2034 would be welcome by most everyone, and could bring an entirely new level of business and activity to our (not) small town. It’s not just Park City and Summit County that are booming. Resorts, hotels and condominiums are rising around Jordanelle. “There’re a lot of new projects coming up soon,” Malone concludes.

Arts & Culture: Yellowstone, Park City

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

Filmmaker Taylor Sheridan came to town to film his feature Wind River a few years back, and he liked what he saw. So much so, that now he’s in the third season as the writer, director and creator of the Paramount Network’s series Yellowstone. Working alongside producer John Linson (Sons of Anarchy) and starring Kevin Costner, they’ve got a hit on their hands.

Yellowstone’s Costner plays fifth-generation rancher John Dutton, who runs the Dutton Ranch, the largest cattle ranch in America. It’s contiguous to both Yellowstone National Park and a reservation, and if you throw in a few real estate developers there’s plenty of conflict and storyline to last another three years, at least.

Filming for the third season is now underway, as nearly 6 million viewers have been following the Dutton’s modern-day saga. While the show is set in Montana, all of the soundstage and much of the location shoots happen in Summit County. The production has actually built a replica of the ranch house Inside the 45,000 square foot sound stages at the Utah Film Studios with real logs brought in from Montana. Sagebrush valleys double for the Native nation, cowboy scenes are set in local rodeo grounds and mobile home meth-labs are blown to bits. It’s an action show, by the way.

And the cast likes what they see here. “This job can take you to a lot of places,” says actor Luke Grimes, who plays Dutton’s son, Kayce. “I’ve filmed all over and Park City has been my favorite location.” The crew numbers around 150, with sometimes four times that many extras. The logistics for such an operation are impressive. There are drivers and wranglers and grips.

Set dressers, propmasters and costume designers are joined by carpenters, electricians and cameramen and sound technicians to stitch this series together. When they move, it’s like an army has been mobilized.

But in the end, it’s the landscape, scenery, and locations that are the major characters which drives the narrative for the actors. Gil Birmingham (who also appeared in Sheridan’s Hell or High Water and Wind River), says, “The landscape is beautiful, just the land, the terrain itself, the mountains, the valleys, it is just gorgeous.”

Costner agrees, and says understatedly, “The background is easy on
the eyes.”

But we all know that already.

Demographics: Who we are

This story is found in the 2019 edition of Milepost.

This area is economically, ethnically, and historically diverse. Huge resorts rise to the west and cattle graze in the verdant eastern valleys. A mining past has given way to a resort economy that is booming, to say the least. It’s a desirable place to be and the lifestyle is the envy of many.

The summers are perfect, with moderate temperatures and afternoon rains, while the winters bring the deep snow and blue skies for which we are famous. Our garages are filled with boats, bikes, and skis. Vacation homes and visitors subsidize our bus systems, recreation centers and schools. Taxes are low, but increasing, to meet the demands for transit, schools and roads. Summit County still has the lowest property tax rate of all 29 counties in the state. Everyone who lives here agrees on one thing: it’s just a great place to live, work, and visit.