February 27, 2008
The Park City Council this Thursday is scheduled to review a proposed change to the affordable-housing requirements that were part of the Empire Pass development agreement.
Last month City Hall staffers raised some eyebrows when they called one of the city’s biggest developers, Talisker, to task for lagging behind in its promise to phase in a specified number of workforce housing units while moving forward with its higher-end projects.
The Planning Commission backed up the staff which is withholding additional building permits until Talisker puts up a $2.2 million guarantee and gets busy on the units.
But it looks like the commission’s bosses, the City Council members, want to negotiate a peace settlement. In a rarely used procedural move, the elected officials called up the commission action for review and will debate the matter Thursday evening.
It would be in everyone’s best interest to find a solution that will allow Talisker to continue building and opening its current projects. The sooner the buildings are completed, the sooner the furious pace of construction will calm down, holes will be filled in and the trucks will begin to thin out on Marsac Avenue.
But the city cannot back down from its commitment to workforce housing.
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Council members should underscore that nearby employee housing will be critical to Talisker’s success. Much of the development on Empire Pass will demand a high level of service and, in an already tight labor market, housing and transportation will be critical factors in finding and retaining employees.
And for its part Talisker will likely emphasize the precarious nature of the current real-estate market and the infusion of capital it is bringing in to the city coffers.
Both sides have valid arguments.
But long after Talisker and all of the other developers in Park City and Summit County have built and sold their last square foot of real estate, Park City and its residents will be living with the consequences. Without fair and evenly enforced workforce housing requirements, the town’s elegant homes and hotels will be dependent on an increasingly far-flung transient labor pool and local roads will be even more choked with traffic.