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Council ponders Weilenmann project

Whatever decision the Summit County Council makes on the repeal of the Discovery CORE project it will set a precedent for future planning decisions in the Snyderville Basin.

Community Development Director Don Sargent and Basin planner Kimber Gabryszak said density limits are influenced by the surrounding neighborhoods. But with so much open space in Summit County, it is sometimes tough to define what constitutes a neighborhood, they told the County Council on Wednesday.

Many residents would like new developments on neighboring parcels to resemble their own density. Several residents of Timberline told the County Council that they opposed the Discovery proposal because plots there are between 0.5 to 1.5 acres. Plots in the new development could be as small as 1/10 of an acre.

But the county code encourages clustering units to create or preserve open space within a project, said David Nilsson with applying developer Glen Lent.

There lies the problem.

Lent applied to build around 175 units some single-family homes, some multi-family about a year ago behind the Weilenmann School of Discovery on property owned by the Weilenmann family near Timberline and Gorgoza Park.

Lent eventually revised the plan and asked the Snyderville Planning Commission for permission to build 162 units on about 222 acres. That proposal would normally be too dense for the zoning, but in 2008 the county code created a designation known as a CORE rezone. This rezone allows developers to build more units on a piece of land if they dedicate some of them to become affordable housing. The additional market-rate units "subsidize" the construction of the affordably-priced ones.

But there are still restrictions on the maximum density possible, partly determined by that in adjoining neighborhoods. County planners and planning commissioners have proposed five different mathematical formulas in recent months to determine how many units should be allowed on the 222-acre parcel.

The most popular proposal with the commission was 88 units, but Lent said this was not economically feasible. No developer could afford to build homes anywhere in the county if that formula were chosen, he said Wednesday.

As a compromise, the county staff proposed 125 halfway between 162 and 88. The compromise was unsuccessful and the planning commission rejected Lent’s proposal.

At the Wednesday work session dedicated to reviewing the planning commission’s decision, County Council member Chris Robinson said he felt uncomfortable setting the precedent with the method used to propose the compromise.

The County Council agreed they would need to decide upon one of the five mathematical formulas and allow the developer to build that number of units or none at all.

The benefit to allowing Lent to build all 162 units in his proposal is he could provide the Basin with more new affordable housing units something the county needs to comply with a state law.

Ironically, if he’s allowed to cater to people making 80 percent of the area’s median income which might be as much as $60,000 or $70,000 per year then he could afford to build more than if he catered to people making 50 percent of the average income, which is the population most in need of new housing.

It perplexed the county council that the code rewards developers for building larger affordable housing units.

Scott Loomis, affordable housing consultant to the county, said it was designed to encourage the creation of different-sized units.

Robinson asked if the council had the ability to make the size of the units conditional on their approval. Dave Thomas, an attorney for the county, said it could so long as it followed the code, which encourages a variety of sizes.

Council member John Hanrahan said that if the council was to make such specifications on the project, it should also designate the homes as being for people who work in Summit County, in contrast to regular affordable housing available to anyone.

Gabryszak said a lottery system can be used to sell the homes with people meeting the council’s specifications getting more "tickets" in the lottery.

If the homes are not sold within about 120 days, however, they will go on the open market, Thomas said.

This spring, two such units went for sale on Deer Valley Drive and were not purchased by people meeting the income requirements within the time limit.

"Please forgive us," Council member Sally Elliott told Lent. "We don’t intend to be mean, and we’re really not stupid it’s really hard."

The County Council will walk the site during its May 25 meeting as it ponders its decision.


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