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Development shutdown declined

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall does not intend to halt development in Old Town, an option briefly debated as a method to give the local government time to reconsider the regulations as officials try to keep the neighborhood’s historic feel.

The Park City Council on Thursday held a wide-ranging discussion about Old Town, listening to the diverse interests that have long made it Park City’s most cherished and contentious area.

The decision to not stop development highlighted the talks on Thursday, which drew members of the Planning Commission, the Historic Preservation Board, Old Town enthusiasts and private-sector designers.

But the City Council indicated it wanted a group seated to review Old Town development issues, including the size of buildings, how dense projects should be and how construction on steep land should be regulated.

The issues have perplexed City Hall officials for years and it is unclear what advances the current round of discussions will produce. The talks, however, come after consultants determined that Old Town is threatened by newer developments.

City officials appear poised to enact new rules in order to further protect the neighborhood but their details are unclear. Development in Old Town is already tightly restricted and designers and architects frequently complain about the rules, saying it is difficult to work in the neighborhood.

The Thursday meeting drew about 50 people, one of the largest crowds in months at a City Council meeting, with Old Town enthusiasts and the designers in attendance.

The meeting covered numerous topics, some seeming to be on the fringe of Old Town’s rules and others with important implications. At one point, Ron Ivie, City Hall’s chief building official, indicated the discussion was too detailed and preferred that the meeting address broader issues.

Still, lots of the talk involved the details. There was discussion about whether plat amendments should be used to create bigger development parcels, a Planning Commissioner indicated he wanted more detailed plans, with models and project elevations, earlier and another person commented about the idea of ‘panelizing,’ which is when the sides of an old building are attached to a new structure.

Meanwhile, a designer asked that City Hall reduce red tape and clarify its development rules in Old Town. Similar demands have been made for at other times.

The discussions come as Park City continues a post-Winter Olympic real-estate boom, with Old Town being especially attractive to new Parkites and those buying investment properties. The critics say that some of the newer houses are too big and there are frequently disputes about development plans.

After the meeting, some of the designers were upset that City Hall is reviewing the rules.

Peter Barnes, an Old Town architect and a prominent critic of the city’s restrictions, says, perhaps, the timing is motivated by politics. Three City Council seats are on the ballot in November.

"I think we have myth and rumor floating about the town," he says. "There is no sudden crisis. What is the driving force behind this latest issue? I have no idea."

Don Bloxom, another in the field, says seating a group like the City Council requested is "crucial" and says he wants to be appointed to the panel. He argues for "latitude" that allows architects and designers to save old buildings. Bloxom says new-looking designs should be allowed in the neighborhood.

"This is cyclical for us," he says about the talks. "Every three or four years this comes up."


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