Guest Editorial, February 29-March 2, 2012 |

Guest Editorial, February 29-March 2, 2012

Robert Ainsworth

Under a banner of providing workforce housing for essential workers, CORE chapter requirements to ensure quality of life are being creatively reinterpreted, or ignored, to the detriment of both future and current residents.

For over three years the public has made hundreds of presentations to the Planning Commission, documenting dozens of violations of the Code and General Plan by the Stone Ridge proposal. Yet, throughout the process, some at the county have gone through extraordinary measures to approve this project in spite of its many violations. These Code requirements are not academic and have real quality-of-life consequences for Summit County.

The Snyderville Basin Development Code clearly states, as a requirement for CORE approval, "each application will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if the project is necessary to address the Workforce Housing needs of the Snyderville Basin." The administrator for Workforce Housing has testified that the county’s need has been met. The 2006 Needs Assessment (based on outdated 2000 Census data) has been invalidated by the burst of the housing bubble. The CORE chapter of the Code has been rescinded. Further, Stone Ridge fails to meet dozens of basic requirements throughout the Code that are prerequisite for approval of major development. Legal justification for approval of Stone Ridge (required by the Code) cannot be established.

Those involved with the development of the CORE have been eager to give the process a chance, yet many of the program’s hard-fought requirements remain ignored and unenforced:

During the county’s push for adoption of the CORE several years ago, lengthy discussion and slide shows emphasized that workforce housing would be evenly and transparently dispersed throughout their neighborhood and the community. In contrast, the Stone Ridge workforce units are nearly all clustered high-density townhomes, and physically segregated from the higher-end estates on the other side of a ridgeline (unacceptable to the Planning Commission a few years ago). Moreover, the location of Stone Ridge, in conjunction with Silver Creek Village, isolates over 400 workforce units (over half of the county’s total) on the outskirts of town, clearly violating CORE principle. Our workforce deserves to live in comparable homes that are fully integrated into their community.

Specific requirements for walkability and access to public transportation were included in the CORE to ensure those with limited transportation options could easily get to work, entertainment, groceries, etc. Stone Ridge is over 3.5 miles from the nearest of these facilities. A round-trip bus ride for a gallon of milk will take over two hours. Stone Ridge residents will enjoy the same integration with Park City as commuters from Tooele.

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The county’s evaluation of the Stone Ridge has myopically focused on the development alone, without consideration of its substantial impact on the remainder of the community.

Several Code requirements mandate a through road connecting Silver Summit Parkway to Old Ranch Road, which will provide thoroughfare from The Promontory to the Canyons. With the 1,100 units of the new Silver Creek Village development (and the 230 Stone Ridge homes) the new road will connect over 2,000 households, the US-40 off ramp and I-80 junction, and commercial centers at each end. This alternate route for congested 224 and 248 traffic will be Park City’s third major entry point for hundreds of rush-hour cars, through the front yards of our new CORE Zone neighbors and Old Ranch Road.

No townhomes exist within miles. The Code requires new homes to be of "specific unit type" of adjacent neighborhoods for compatibility and appropriateness. Throughout the Code specific distinction is provided for single-family detached and attached units (managed as condos). In spite of these clear distinctions, some county officials have creatively redefined townhomes as equivalent to single-family detached, in order to skate Code requirements.

Identified as "Parcel B" (with "59 units" on "3.1 buildable acres"), the property’s current zoning of one house in 20 acres is inverted to 19 homes per single acre, a 38,000% increase in density for this parcel! The least-dense parcel is a mere 1,000% increase in density. Were Stone Ridge to be approved, precedent would be established which would invalidate zoning law for the entire Snyderville Basin.

Some county officials have told the Planning Commission the Code is more of a guideline than regulation, so that this application may be approved in spite of its many violations. Stone Ridge cannot be approved without undermining substantial portions of development regulation, as well as substantially undermining the quality of life for its 230 new families and the existing residents of Summit County.

Robert Ainsworth is the president of the Trailside Homeowners’ Association.