City Hall prepares strike against big Old Town houses |

City Hall prepares strike against big Old Town houses

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

Park City officials this week are scheduled to debate what would be a major reworking of the some of the key development rules in Old Town, changes that would further limit the size of houses in the historic neighborhood.

The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday is prepared to discuss changes to City Hall’s Land Management Code, the document that governs development within the city.

The key changes that municipal staffers have proposed are:

  • restricting houses to a maximum of two stories. They are now allowed to climb to three stories.
  • restricting a landowner’s ability to combine lots to only those who have historic structures that already cross lot lines
  • increasing the space required between a house and the lot lines
  • instituting a maximum building footprint of 1,367 square foot on parcels that include two or more lots. The footprint eventually determines the size of the building. A footprint of 1,367 square feet allows a house with a maximum of 2,734 square feet, according to City Hall’s calculations.

    The Planning Commission meeting is set to start at 5:30 p.m. at the Marsac Building. A hearing is scheduled. A vote would be cast at a later meeting.

    The move by City Hall to further restrict house sizes in Old Town comes as leaders continue to grapple with development in the neighborhood, the most contentious in Park City. Property owners generally do not want further restrictions to their ability to develop while others in the neighborhood and the preservation community prefer smaller houses that better fit the streetscape.

    There has not been apparent widespread interest in the discussions, which have included a City Council decision that ordered a stoppage on the processing of several common zoning applications in Old Town until mid-December. The stoppage is meant to allow City Hall time to consider the further restrictions.

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    Since early July, however, there has been interest from people who are worried that the restrictions will have unfavorable consequences on properties in Old Town.

    The Park City Board of Realtors last Friday submitted a letter to the Planning Commission that especially addressed the idea to restrict houses to two stories. The one-page letter, signed by the group’s lobbyist, Kate Riggs, urges the panel to uphold the current allowance of three stories.

    In an interview and in the letter, Riggs said the restriction would make it difficult for a garage to be built with a house in Old Town. With three stories, she said, the garage usually occupies the first story, leaving the other two stories for living space. The garages have been important in reducing the pressure on street parking, she said.

    Riggs said the Board of Realtors prefers City Hall consider other methods, such as the measurements of square footage for living space, to reduce the size of houses in Old Town rather than restricting them to two stories.

    "A story that allows parking is critical," Riggs said in an interview.

    Riggs said real estate agents and potential buyers have expressed concerns about the restrictions.

    City Hall had received several correspondences by early in the week from people concerned with the idea. The correspondences address a series of topics, including that people might not have purchased their properties if they were aware further restrictions might someday be put in place. The correspondences also discuss the effects on the real estate in Old Town.

    "Without question, there are others who, like us, will either have to forfeit or postpone their plans to purchase or remodel in Park City if the proposed measures are enforced. One can only wonder how the local economy, which benefits from any building construction, might suffer with this pending legislation," said a July 3 letter from Mary Ellen and Jim Robertson, homeowners on the 900 block of Park Avenue.