Controversial Newpark development gets green light after significant changes
On Thursday morning, the 38-unit, mixed-use project called The Commons got the green light from County Manager Tom Fisher. The project has been in the works for nearly four years, with developers originally receiving approval for a previous design, only to scrap it in favor of an entirely different one when faced with resistance from the community.
Opponents of the previous plan cited its height, lack of businesses on the ground floor and appearance in their appeal of a previous approval from the county manager.
The County Council in 2018 upheld Fisher’s decision to approve that project, which was planned to be seven townhomes equaling roughly 10,000 square feet, but the developers never built it.
Instead, explained Justin Keys, an attorney representing developers Crandall Capital, the Crandalls decided to rework the project though they were under no legal obligation to do so.
“The County Council made that clear, that we had the right to build that, but it wouldn’t be the right project for the place,” Keys said.
So after investing what Matthew Crandall said was hundreds of thousands of dollars in architectural work and three or four years of time, the Crandalls decided to start over.
The new project is more than three times the size of the previous one, and features about 12,500 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 25,000 square feet of “affordable/workforce housing” split among 18 studios, 14 one-bedrooms, four two-bedrooms and two three-bedrooms.
One of the main complaints about the previous project was that the garages on the ground floor would interrupt the commercial flow of the area. Those have been replaced with retail spaces, which architect Trent Smith said will at points allow passersby to see through the building to the green spaces beyond. The Crandalls described their vision for a ground-floor restaurant with some “really nice patio space.”
Chris Eggleton was one of the leaders of the opposition movement called Preserve the Newpark Plaza. He lauded the changes made in this plan and said it was in line with the original vision for Newpark.
“People can’t engage with garage doors,” Eggleton said of the previous plan. He said he had “nothing but goodwill” toward the new plan and the Crandalls for changing their development when they weren’t required to. Preserve the Newpark Plaza disbanded after the appeal over the previous plan failed and the Crandalls had secured the right to build what they wished.
Another concern was what the Crandalls called “fear mongering” about the future of the nearby amphitheater, which has hosted a popular outdoor summer concert series. Though it would be within their legal rights to build “right in the middle” of it, Matthew Crandall said, they chose to preserve it and much of the neighboring green space.
As to the building’s height, it is planned to be 41 feet, 3 inches tall, three feet shorter than the previous submittal and below the maximum allowable height of 45 feet.
The Crandalls purchased around 27,000 square feet of unused density from the Snyderville Basin Special Recreation District that was essentially left over from the Fieldhouse project that made the expansion possible. That land was designated as affordable housing, which in this case requires the apartments to be rented to people, on average, who make up to 80 percent of the “area median income,” or AMI, Jeffrey Jones, the county’s economic development and housing director, wrote in an email.
The county’s AMI for a family of four is $109,800, meaning the average tenant will earn at or below $87,840 for a family of four. That’s around $61,500 for a single renter or $70,200 for a couple, according to a chart Jones provided.
Rent on affordable housing units includes utilities and is set at 30 percent of a tenant’s income, Jones wrote. The specifics of how much each affordable apartment will cost depends on how big it is and how many people would live there.
Jones said the negotiations between his office and the developers so far have been “congenial,” and he hopes they can work out an agreement that reserves a few of the larger apartments below that 80 percent mark, as those are “much more difficult” for families to find in the area. He pointed out those negotiations must be completed before the county issues any building permits.
If constructed, the development would leave no density remaining in the Newpark development. The Crandalls’ website lists this fall as the anticipated completion date.
There is a 10-day window to appeal Fisher’s decision.
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