City Hall-built worker housing: ‘the best thing going’ | ParkRecord.com

City Hall-built worker housing: ‘the best thing going’

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A City Hall official anticipates the construction of the Snow Creek Cottages work force housing development will be completed by May 25, slightly behind schedule but in time for people moving in to spend the summer in their new places.

Dave Gustafson, who oversees the local government’s construction projects, said the crews are a month behind the anticipated schedule. He said rain last summer and the recent snowstorms caused the delays. Groundbreaking was last May.

"Construction has gone steadily forward. Weather delayed us a little bit," Gustafson said.

The cottages, City Hall’s most ambitious brick-and-mortar work force housing development, are under construction outside the Park Avenue police station. They are visible from several spots close by, but there has been little chatter as the buildings have gone up.

City Hall inked a contract worth just more than $3.2 million with R&O Construction to build the 13 houses in the project, which were designed by Park City architect Craig Elliott.

"The whole project is going well," Gustafson said.

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He acknowledged, though, the crews found ground water during the construction, an issue that had long been seen as a possibility since the land sits close to McLeod Creek. The workers switched materials, from dirt to cobble, he said. Gustafson said cobble was put underneath the foundations instead of dirt as well to guard against groundwater.

Park City, in the meantime, has opened the application window for people wanting to enter a lottery for a chance to win the right to purchase one of the houses in Snow Creek Cottages. The application period opened on Feb. 8 and closes on March 5. People in households earning $120,000 or more per year, a figure based on an equation used by housing officials that takes into account the area’s median income, are not eligible to purchase a place. The smaller houses, priced at $228,000, are affordable to someone who earns $60,000 per year while the larger ones, which will be set at $264,000, are affordable to people earning $70,000, City Hall has said.

"Absolutely, they’re good-looking homes, and they’re affordable," Gustafson said. "That’s the best thing going."

The project encompasses 10 three-bedroom houses and three two-bedrooms. Restrictions that will be placed onto the deeds include that the owner must occupy the place, appreciation is capped at 3 percent each year and City Hall has the right of first refusal when the buyers later sell the houses.

City Hall will also prohibit owners from renting the houses unless officials approve the arrangement based on someone leaving for an extended period for military service or missionary work.

Of the 13 houses, two will be set aside for City Hall workers and another two, outfitted with elevators, will go to disabled people or the elderly. The other nine units will be open to anyone who qualifies for the lottery, which is scheduled on March 26 in the Park City Council chambers.

City Hall has long seen itself as a champion of work force housing, oftentimes called affordable housing, but leaders see the Snow Creek Cottages as pointing to a more aggressive stand from the local government.

Elected officials and city staffers for years have argued for work force housing, saying that the places ensure that people of varying means can afford to live locally. That makes Park City more diverse and has other benefits like reducing commuter traffic, the supporters say.

Officials encountered resistance from people who live close to the site while the project was under consideration. Some of the critics in 2008 formally challenged the development in an effort to convince the Park City Council to overturn a lower panel’s approval. The elected officials rejected the appeal.

Lisa Rudy, one of the people who joined the appeal, said in an interview this week she hopes the buyers take pride in their places once they move in. She hopes the neighborhood continues to look well kept.

"It’s coming along," she said. "I think it’s going to be nice."