Force workers out, letter urges
May 16, 2007
The message is blunt: if someone can’t afford Park City’s housing prices, they should stay out. No need for those sorts in the city — only the best people should be Parkites.
The assessment comes from Joseph Clark, who lives in Scotia, N.Y., in the Upstate region, but is a part-time Parkite at the Windrift Condominiums, where some people are upset with City Hall’s decision to pursue a nearby affordable-housing project.
Clark’s two-page letter, recently delivered to Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council, is a stark treatise on the prospects of restricted affordable housing in the city, an idea that often draws criticism. But Clark’s words are especially daring in a community where many Parkites, including City Hall officials, see affordable housing as needed to ensure a reliable workforce.
Clark mentions people like teachers and police officers should be paid better in Park City, allowing them to afford the local real-estate market, but he also outlines an argument against affordable-housing projects, saying "something is wrong" if housing must be provided.
"You could solve the problem like Aspen, forcing their working class to live in towns 10 miles or further away, out of (sight)," Clark says in the May 1 letter. "I think Heber City has provided this option for Park City workers for some time."
He talks about his upbringing on Long Island, N.Y., where some of New York City’s affluent suburbs are located. There, he says, professionals are paid better, which attracts "only the best and brightest" to live there, "thus ensuring their legacy."
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"And the opposite, where some communities decided to provide for the less fortunate, taxes still went up (to pay for these benefits), but those that could move out did, selling to others in need of such social benefits, further depressing property values and the tax base," Clark writes. "The final step was usually crime and blight, more police and services, etc."
He urges the City Hall officials to not "re-invent Park City as a middle class community." If that occurs "big spending" vacation-home owners will stop coming to Park City and "the town will look like Kimball Junction, Heber City or maybe even Long Island."
Clark’s letter foreshadows what will likely be bitterly disputed application for an affordable-housing project at Snow Creek. The City Council recently agreed to pursue the project but details have not been finalized and City Hall has not yet filed applications for the development. Phyllis Robinson, who directs the local government’s housing efforts, has said the land could probably hold between 12 and 24 units and the project would not cover the entire parcel, about five acres near the Snow Creek post office.
During the recent City Council meeting, a few neighbors were concerned about a project, however, saying they prefer that the land remain as open space. Once an application is submitted, more meetings will be scheduled. It is likely the testimony at the upcoming meetings will resemble what the City Councilors heard.
Affordable housing for years has perplexed City Hall and been criticized by people who live nearby prospective sites. The local government, which sees itself as an affordable-housing champion, argues offering the housing allows people of varying income to live locally. That, the supporters say, makes Park City more diverse and allows the government and businesses to attract people who otherwise would be priced out of Park City’s resort-driven housing market.
But critics are often concerned that affordable housing, which is usually built in dense projects, does not fit into neighborhoods, brings too much traffic and could depress the value of surrounding properties.
In an interview, Mayor Dana Williams, a longtime supporter of City Hall’s affordable-housing program, criticizes the Clark letter, saying Park City throughout its history has attracted the middle class. He says it is unrealistic for everyone in Park City to earn enough to afford to buy in the local housing market. Williams says Clark’s opinion is not pervasive among people who own vacation homes in Park City.
"It’s obviously someone who doesn’t know our history, our culture, our demographics," Williams says, adding, "I found the letter, I guess, frustrating and somewhat demeaning to the Park City community as a whole."