‘Fear’ mars rancorous Basin housing debate
Controversy looms in western Summit County as some homeowners fight to keep affordable housing units away from their mountain neighborhoods.
Tuesday, critics panned a plan that would have demanded builders include affordable housing as part of all new development and redevelopment in the Snyderville Basin. The proposal would have required 20 percent of properties in subdivisions to be available only to buyers with moderate incomes.
Many of those who opposed the proposal also worked to scuttle a discussion about so-called "overlay zones," which could provide builders financial incentives to construct affordable housing in Snyderville.
Tuesday the debate became tense at a Snyderville Basin Planning Commission meeting when Basin resident Pat Putt chided those who believe affordable housing includes ripped furniture on the porch and cars on blocks in the driveway.
Putt singled out remarks made by a man in the crowd that Putt said caused him "personal offense."
"I support the direction that this legislation is moving," Putt said about attempts by Summit County to require the building of affordable housing. "What I hear in this room today is a lot of fear I’ve heard a lot of partial truths and a lot of things that are patently wrong or false."
Putt challenged his critics to drive through neighborhoods in Park City to determine which houses are restricted as affordable.
"We have to stop the fear," he told members of the Basin Planning Commission. "We have to get rid of the rhetoric."
But about 25 people attended the hearing Tuesday to oppose making affordable housing part of all new development.
The largest employers in the county include Deer Valley, Park City Mountain Resort, The Canyons, Park City Municipal, Summit County and the Park City School District, Basin resident Nic Amundsen explained.
"What are they doing to help?" Amundsen asked. "The Basin cares more about this problem."
He suggested that communities in eastern Summit County help shoulder the burden of affordable housing.
Rather than requiring developers construct affordable housing, Basin resident Art Brothers suggested collecting a tax from builders to allow non-profit groups like Habitat for Humanity to build the homes.
"Why not make it simple?" he asked.
Brothers criticized the county for aiming to provide affordable housing for 36 percent of its workforce.
"This is an arbitrary number," he said.
Employees must earn livable wages before housing becomes affordable, Brothers said.
Meanwhile, debate about affordable-housing overlay zones hasn’t been completely scrapped by Basin planners, according to Summit County Community Development Director Nora Shepard.
That proposal irked neighbors in western Summit County when planners said builders would be encouraged to construct affordable units in Trailside, Silver Summit and near Old Ranch Road.
"Passing this ordinance piecemeal is a bad idea," Basin resident Cris Hague said about only approving portions of the new rules at a time. "We shouldn’t take this in a vacuum. We ought to bite the bullet and take it all at one time."
Officials envision deed-restricted housing projects serving households that earn $67,000, which is 80 percent of the Snyderville median annual income of roughly $82,000.
No decisions were made Tuesday and the public can attend an open house to discuss affordable housing Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. at the Utah Olympic Park near Kimball Junction.
"I’m looking forward to this event," Basin Planning Commissioner Kurt Danitz said. "We need to get the developers in the same room and talk this over with them over a soft drink."
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When it comes to the U.S. census, let’s just say Park City has… room for improvement.