Developer picked for Planning | ParkRecord.com

Developer picked for Planning

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Council is poised to appoint developer Rory Murphy to the city’s Planning Commission, disagreeing with his own worries that he might jeopardize the public’s perception of the panel’s integrity if he became a member of the influential board.

City Councilors on Thursday are also slated to put Richard Peek on the seven-person Planning Commission, ending an unexpectedly competitive, well-publicized search to replace Mark Sletten and Jim Barth, both of whom resigned before their terms expired. Murphy and Peek will be seated for partial terms, ending in July 2009.

Murphy’s appointment will be especially noteworthy. He is one of Park City’s biggest developers, with the Silver Star condominiums on the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort and Empire Pass being his notable projects.

His application for the Planning Commission sparked criticism that a developer should not be appointed to the panel that oversees his industry.

Murphy declined to comment about his selection, which was announced on a City Council agenda released midday Monday. He said he preferred not to discuss his appointment before it was finalized.

Mayor Dana Williams, who is friends with Murphy, said Monday Murphy is an "ethical person" who understands City Hall’s development rules. Williams had also backed Murphy after the criticism that followed his application.

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"His expertise in development in Park City helped him qualify him for this job," Williams said, confident Murphy will not be a "rubber stamp" for developers. Williams said City Councilors unanimously chose Murphy and Peek in a straw poll conducted in a closed-door session.

Murphy and Peek will take their seats at a Dec. 12 meeting. A hearing about a landowner’s request to annex the ground for the Park City Heights development highlights an early agenda for that meeting.

Murphy’s selection will follow three weeks after he warned Williams and the City Councilors not to select him. In an interview with the elected officials, Murphy said he would "undermine the credibility" of the Planning Commission if he were appointed.

He worried he would become fodder for City Hall critics if he casts pro-development votes. Murphy also said he was concerned about offending developers if he voted too many projects down.

In that appearance with the City Council, Murphy said he had not thoroughly considered how some Parkites would react to his bid for the Planning Commission.

He did not withdraw his application, however, and he submitted to questions, as the others did, from the City Council about broad growth-related topics.

He indicated he continues to pursue a Planning Department approval for a pub at Silver Star.

Murphy lives in Old Town and has lived in the area for 14 years.

In his application, he describes himself as "friends with most of the city staff," and he calls himself a "conscientious developer."

Murphy highlights workforce housing, protecting sensitive lands, controlling traffic and providing bus service as critical issues for the Planning Commission.

Seven people competed for the two spots, some seeming to submit applications in an effort to provide balance to Murphy’s bid.

One of the candidates, Glenn McConkey, said in her application, "I do believe that large, well funded developers should not be on the commission." Another, Peter Knauer, wrote in his application, "The pro-development industry nature of the current commission is an obvious conflict to many of the residents in Park City."

Murphy and Peek will take seats at City Hall as the Planning Commission continues to grapple with a post-Winter Olympic growth spurt spurred by Park City’s hot real estate market. Commissioners have been busy with major projects and smaller ones that have been challenging.

Major decisions that might be made before the end of their terms include the Sweeney family’s Treasure Hill proposal off PCMR’s Town runs, an expansion of development onto Deer Valley Resort’s Snow Park Lodge parking lots and how the North of Main district will evolve.