Housing advocates rally
A bloc of housing advocates, some living in restricted work force units themselves, rallied on Thursday night before Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council, urging the elected officials to keep intact a lower panel’s approval of a development on the edge of Snow Creek.
The Thursday meeting, a sometimes-raucous gathering of the advocates and unhappy neighbors, put on display the deep divisions work force housing continues to create years after City Hall endorsed an idea that Park City is better off if more rank-and-file workers live locally.
The City Council, however, indicated it was not ready to cast a vote on the project, which has been dubbed Snow Creek Cottages. City Hall itself wants to build Snow Creek Cottages, and the city’s Planning Commission has already cast a ‘Yea’ vote. Neighbors, though, challenged the approval through an appeal to the City Council, a rarely used procedural move. The appeal lists issues such as wildlife, waterways and the height of the buildings. The neighbors want the land kept as open space.
The elected officials on Thursday delayed a vote until at least Aug. 21, asking that a study of the wildlife at the site, 2060 Park Ave., be finished and for more information about a study of the potential effects on waterways and wetlands. City Hall owns the eight acres of land directly east of the Park Avenue police station, and the project — 13 houses — would be built on a portion of the land.
The crowd packed into the room at the Park City Library and Education Center for the meeting, with the group of housing advocates making an unexpected appearance. Past meetings about the project have mostly drawn critical neighbors and a smattering of the housing supporters. There was word Thursday night that someone sent out alerts to the advocates urging them to attend the meeting.
Nancy Solomon, who lives in a condominium on Saddle View Way and is one of eight people challenging the July 9 Planning Commission approval, said afterward she was "not feeling comfortable" that the City Council will side with her and her neighbors.
"No, I don’t think they really listened to our concerns," she said in an interview.
The City Councilors months ago gave City Hall staffers the go-ahead to pursue a development at the site. Since then, officials and consultants designed the project, talked with neighbors and shepherded the development through the Planning Commission, which unanimously approved the project.
The advocates represented a diverse group, with Eccles Center and Park City Mountain Resort executives endorsing the development and the overarching ideas of work force housing. Teri Orr, who leads the nonprofit that oversees the Eccles Center, said just two of 10 people who work for her live in Park City as she called Snow Creek Cottages a "terrific project." Jenni Smith, a top-ranking official at PCMR, also was supportive on Thursday night.
Rich Wyman, a longtime housing advocate who lives in a work force development in Prospector, meanwhile, said the spot is an "ideal location" and City Hall’s blueprints do not include as many units as the local government could have sought.
"There’s a lot of fear in this appeal," Wyman said, adding, to applause, work force housing benefits Park City by providing people like teachers, police officers and City Hall employees a chance to live locally.
Some speakers received applause, but Williams tried to keep the meeting under control, telling the audience that the meeting was not a sporting event and calling the applause inappropriate.
Park City has long supported a theory that holds that providing work force housing betters the community by offering housing options for people who otherwise would be priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market, the most expensive in the state. Supporters of the theory say work force housing brings diversity to Park City and reduces traffic, among other benefits they claim.
Critics, though, frequently condemn the idea, with popular arguments being that the projects will attract too much traffic, they do not fit in neighborhoods and they could depress nearby property values.
Williams, who does not hold a vote unless one is needed to break a tie, told the crowd he is pleased with the plans. He said there is limited land where City Hall can build work force housing and the buildings will not be too tall.
"I like this project. I like it a lot," the mayor said.
That City Hall wants to build the project itself adds intrigue, with at least one of the neighbors listed on the appeal questioning whether his side will receive a fair hearing.
Conrad Elliott, who lives on Windrift Lane, called the City Council the "judge, jury and developer."
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