A place for the work force to live | ParkRecord.com

A place for the work force to live

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall recently awarded a $3.2 million contract to a construction firm to build a work force housing project at Snow Creek, a milestone deal that puts the local government in the role of a housing developer for the first time.

The Park City Council unanimously agreed to the contract with R&O Construction in Ogden for the work. In a separate agreement, the elected officials authorized a $70,354 contract with Elliott Work Group, a local firm, to administer the construction of the development, known as Snow Creek Cottages.

There was little debate as the City Councilors authorized the deals. Snow Creek Cottages will encompass 13 houses at 2060 Park Ave., a swath of City Hall-owned land outside the police station.

Phyllis Robinson, who directs City Hall’s work force housing programs, expects a groundbreaking in May. She hopes the houses will be ready for people to move in before Christmas.

Ten of the houses will be three-bedrooms and three will be two-bedrooms. The larger ones will be approximately 1,800 square feet each. The smaller ones are designed to be approximately 1,500 square feet each. Two of them will be outfitted with elevators for the disabled. The project will feature environmentally friendly features like a heating system that relies on the Earth’s internal heat and an electrical system that will be energized by sunlight.

City Hall has not set a price yet, but Robinson said the construction costs will be lower than anticipated, meaning that the sale price will come down as well. She said the prices could be 15 percent lower than what was expected when the elected officials gave the go-ahead for the project.

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Robinson said she hopes the house prices will average in the low $200,000s to mid-$200,000s.

Two of the units will be set aside for sales to full-time City Hall workers. Robinson said the remainder will be awarded through a random selection of eligible people who want one. She said between 40 and 50 people have expressed an interest in the units. The selection will likely be held in the fall, she said. Eligibility rules have not been finalized, but Robinson said people who want a house will probably be required to work within the boundaries of the Park City School District and the houses must be classified as their primary residences. Robinson said City Hall might require the selected people to be first-time homebuyers.

City Hall will maintain the right of first refusal when buyers put the houses up for sale. There will be appreciation limits on the sales, as is the case with other work force housing projects.

The recent contract award followed six months after Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council ordered staffers to proceed with the development amid worries from people who live nearby. The critics from streets like Windrift Lane were worried about the effects of the development on waterways and wildlife. Some were also unhappy with the size of the development.

The elected officials, though, countered that the land is an appropriate site for a work force housing development. They talked about its location close to a grocery store, a bus route, a liquor store and the post office as they touted the spot. Robinson said the designs were altered, including reducing the height of the houses and putting smaller two-bedroom houses into the project, in a bid to quell neighborhood concern.

City Hall is funding the work through its Redevelopment Agency and with funds collected from developers who paid into a pot of money instead of building the work force housing required of them. The city will then replenish the Redevelopment Agency through the sales of the houses.

The local government has long been proud of its work force housing efforts, sometimes called affordable housing. The supporters say Park City is better off if more rank-and-file workers live locally. They say there is less traffic and Park City is a more diverse community with the availability of work force housing.

But in building Snow Creek Cottages, City Hall takes on a much more significant role. Previously City Hall financially supported work force developments, such as the Line Condominiums off Deer Valley Drive, but the local government has not developed a project itself.

Williams, a longtime supporter of work force housing, said in an interview he anticipates more than 50 people will submit their names to buy one of the houses. He said there is a strong blue-collar tradition in Park City, dating to the silver-mining era of decades ago, and Parkites remain supportive of housing the work force inside the city limits.

"I think the majority of people in this community still feel maintaining a socioeconomic diversity in Park City is important," the mayor said.