City Hall hires architect
Many Parkites would quickly talk about the upper reaches of Park Avenue or Woodside Avenue, each holding a cache of historic houses, when asked about their favorite streetscapes in Old Town.
But Kayla Sintz, the architect that City Hall recently hired on a full-time basis to help referee the widening disputes between Park City officials, landowners and their private-sector architects and neighbors, cannot quickly pick which street in Old Town she likes the best, from the perspective of an architect.
In her mind, Old Town should not be looked at block by block or street by street. As City Hall prepares to finalize a controversial update of the guidelines that regulate house designs in Old Town, Sintz says people should envision the many streets and houses that make up the neighborhood.
"It’s not a single building. It’s this building amongst a whole group of buildings," Sintz says.
Sintz, who is the lone licensed architect employed by City Hall, started with the local government in late July, arriving amid the polarizing talks about the Old Town design guidelines. She has attended many of the most recent meetings about the guidelines, and Sintz will be a key figure as they are completed and Park City starts to regulate buildings in the neighborhood using the new guidelines.
She is 37 years old, lives in Silver Springs and has lived in the Park City area for almost five years. She worked in Park City for three years before moving to the area.
Her resume includes six years working with architect Craig Elliott, whose Main Street firm is now involved with projects like the Snow Creek Cottages work force housing development off Park Avenue.
While working for Elliott, Sintz was the project manager for the Sky Lodge at the Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection, but she says she did not have a role in the lodge’s design. Critics see the Sky Lodge, which is one of the largest buildings in Park City, as an intrusion in the historic district.
Sintz does not expect conflicts of interest between her City Hall assignments and her previous work in the private sector. Elliott calls Sintz a "terribly talented person" who "speaks the language of architecture." He says she understands the challenges an architect faces in Old Town.
"You have to walk a fine line between history and today," Elliott says.
Old Town for years has been Park City’s most contentious neighborhood, with landowners, architects and house designers frequently wanting to put up houses or additions to historic houses that loom over their neighbors. Historic houses in Old Town are generally smaller than the newer ones and the additions, prompting disagreements that sometimes are drawn out in front of City Hall panels like the Historic Preservation Board.
"I think it has to be functional for the area. It has to fit positively into the environment. It has to respond to its surroundings," Sintz says, describing, in generalities, how houses should be designed in Old Town.
Land values in Old Town make the disputes about house designs more urgent. House prices in the neighborhood regularly reach toward $1 million. Some houses command significantly higher prices than that. Buyers see Old Town as a quaint place to live or own a vacation home, with nearby Main Street and the closeness to the Park City Mountain Resort slopes among the reasons Old Town is desirable.
"How do you put a value on good design? That’s why you’re getting a broad range of people’s preferences," she says.
Some of Park City’ architects and house designers have been especially critical of City Hall’s bid to update the guidelines, with the critics saying further restrictions will lead to bland designs and lower property values. Sintz argues the architects and house designers are not trying to take advantage of the neighborhood, but people who live in Old Town must be engaged as decisions are made.
Peter Barnes, an architect and longtime critic of City Hall’s design rules in Old Town, says hiring an architect like Sintz is smart, claiming that her work adds credibility to the local government. Barnes says he wants Sintz to provide independent opinions based on her architectural training, a change, he says, from how Park City handled design questions before.
"This is a good thing. What do I say? We appear to be making planning decisions based on politics," says Barnes, who was not familiar with Sintz’s work before her hiring.
Sintz, other City Hall officials and the architects and designers are anticipating the updated guidelines, with an important meeting of the Historic Preservation Board held on Wednesday. Sintz expects Old Town will continue to attract top-flight people to design the houses once the updated rules are in place.
"There’s very talented designers and architects in Old Town," she says. "They wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t function in this environment."
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