City Hall confronts Talisker
February 12, 2008
In a bold January move against the developers of Empire Pass, City Hall stopped issuing building permits in the project on the slopes of Deer Valley, demanding that Talisker Deer Valley take additional steps toward putting up the work force housing required of the project.
The dispute between City Hall and Talisker, the key Empire Pass developer and one of the largest operating in the city, has not been widely publicized, but it is a drastic illustration of the local government’s renewed commitment to trying to provide housing restricted to people who qualify through their income.
According to Brooks Robinson, who handles the day-to-day operations of the Planning Department and has a significant role in the Empire Pass discussions, City Hall also refuses to issue certificates of occupancy — government paperwork needed before a building can open — past 150 units of 2,000 square feet each in Empire Pass.
The developers can continue to put up Empire Pass buildings that received permits before the stoppage.
Robinson said the developers by January should have built 15 work force units, based on the approximately 200 regularly priced Empire Pass units that have received certificates of occupancy or temporary certificates. Another 15 are needed by the time the number of regularly priced units hits 300.
The developers have put up five work force units, with another one under construction, according to City Hall.
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"We’ve talked with them for over a year and let them know they’re going to run up against a problem," Robinson said.
The Park Record was unable to contact David Smith, the Talisker official who handles the company’s development negotiations at City Hall. The city’s Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss the situation and hold a hearing at a meeting on Wednesday starting at 6:30 p.m.
Talisker is proceeding with plans for the required work force housing, which City Hall makes large developers build, and has submitted an application to build 20 units on Marsac Avenue. Talisker is also involved in an ambitious idea to build worker housing at Quinn’s Junction.
City Hall acknowledges those efforts, but counters that the overall approval for Empire Pass called for work force housing to built on a quicker timeline.
In a letter to Robinson, which was also sent to other top-ranking City Hall officials and development interests in Empire Pass, Smith said the city’s refusal to issue building permits "has substantive implications" for the developers and the local government.
Smith also said Talisker is seeking city approvals for 118 units of work force housing. That number, according to Smith’s letter, "probably represents more affordable housing than any developer has had in process with the City at any given time."
Smith wants a longstanding report outlining the requirements changed to allow City Hall to award certificates of occupancy based on work force housing that is built, under construction or under review by City Hall. If that change is made, the 118 units Talisker seeks would count toward the total, putting the developer at or above the benchmark.
Robinson said there are talks about the developer posting a financial guarantee for the work force housing, but details were not available at the beginning of the week.