Developer: fodder for critics | ParkRecord.com
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Developer: fodder for critics

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Developer Rory Murphy, whose bid to serve on the Park City Planning Commission has sparked criticism in some circles that he should not be appointed, told City Councilors he would "undermine the credibility" of the panel if he is selected.

During an interview with the elected officials on Thursday, Murphy said the Planning Commission already suffers in that regard. Having him on the panel could provide more fodder for City Hall critics, Murphy said. He also worried about offending people if he were a Planning Commissioner and cast ‘Nay’ votes too often as a way to distance himself from the development community.

"I don’t think I thought it through. It definitely raised a great deal of emotion in this town," Murphy said about his bid for the Planning Commission, which oversees Park City’s bustling development industry.

He did not withdraw his application, though, and he remains a candidate. He recommended Dick Peek, one of his competitors for the panel, be appointed, however. Murphy joked that he’s "happy to serve on the walkability board," referring to a committee that will soon be seated to assist as City Hall considers pedestrian and bicycling upgrades.

In the last decade, Murphy has been among the biggest developers in Park City, serving as an executive with United Park City Mines as the critical Empire Pass approvals in Deer Valley were secured and leading the team that is building the Silver Star project on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort.

Murphy is well liked at City Hall and the Silver Star project won support from the local government and from neighbors, a rarity in Park City, where lots of developers tangle with people who live nearby.

Murphy indicated he is pursuing one additional approval that involves the Planning Department, a permit for a pub at Silver Star.

Jim Hier, a City Councilor who once served on the Planning Commission, told Murphy there are few critics of his bid for the panel and it is difficult to stock the Planning Commission with people without ties to the development industry.

Hier noted the current Planning Commission service of Charlie Wintzer, who developed much of the Iron Horse district years ago.

Murphy told Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council it would be difficult for the Planning Commission to turn down a developer if a project adhered to City Hall’s rules. He said Park City’s tourism-heavy economy is crucial, and Park City would not be as appealing without the tourists.

Murphy said building more affordable housing is a critical issue for City Hall. He linked traffic, parking problems and pedestrian safety to affordable housing.

"I think it will be the crucible issue," he said.

Murphy and six other Parkites are competing for one spot on the Planning Commission. The position runs through July 2009. The City Council must interview one more candidate, Peter Knauer, and his appearance is scheduled Nov. 29. The City Councilors might select a person for the position that date.

The other Planning Commission hopefuls talked to the elected officials about broad topics like growth and traffic. Highlights of the others included:

( Irene Cho said she would strive for better publicity for projects, saying regular Parkites could learn more about controversial proposals that way. She said critical issues include traffic, affordable housing and pedestrian safety. Cho acknowledged she has a limited understanding of City Hall’s development rules but said she brings a "big-city perspective" from her time living elsewhere.

( Todd Ford talked about his background as a municipal planner in Massachusetts, and he said he is committed to creating neighborhoods with pedestrian connections and "innovative architecture." He said he wants communities to be environmentally friendly, or sustainable, a goal of City Hall. He said he wants stores located in neighborhoods, which he said could reduce traffic.

( Glenn McConkey said she does not want a developer appointed to the Planning Commission, saying, "We thought it was inappropriate," and she wants someone with a "wider scope" to serve. She acknowledged not being familiar with the city’s development rules. McConkey said she would be cautious as she considers affordable-housing proposals, saying bigger projects could create problems.

( Rob Morris, who once was a Park City developer, said he also has a background in public service. "There’s another side to Rob Morris," he said, adding he’s "qualified, maybe overqualified" for the Planning Commission. He said affordable housing is an "absolute necessity," and the private sector should build the housing. Traffic is difficult, and Old Town is important, Morris said.

( Peek, who was Murphy’s recommendation, said issues like affordable housing and growth on the outskirts of Park City are important issues. He said if left-hand turns someday take 20 minutes, he would consider moving from Park City. Peek indicated if a project meets Park City’s development rules, it must be approved even if regular Parkites are unhappy. "What do you do? It has to be passed. It’s private property."


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