Housing group secures land | ParkRecord.com

Housing group secures land

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall plans to give a not-for-profit group land in Old Town to build a work force housing project, a decision that drew praise Thursday night as the Park City Council unanimously approved the agreement.

Under the terms, the city will transfer a small piece of land at 154 Marsac Ave. to Habitat for Humanity, allowing the group to pursue a project at the site. The City Councilors approved the deal with little discussion, and there were several people in the audience who are supportive.

"We’re doing the right things," City Councilman Roger Harlan said, telling the audience it was "joyful" for him to cast a ‘Yea’ vote. In the past, he said, it would have been difficult for a group like Habitat to build in the city limits. Land prices are high in Park City, making it tough for not-for-profit groups to build work force housing in the city.

Thursday’s vote allows Habitat to pursue another set of approvals. The City Council endorsement on Thursday allows the group to move forward. If the elected officials rejected the request to transfer the land, Habitat could not have advanced.

"We are very optimistic the project will be relatively easy," Christina Miller, the co-president of the local Habitat chapter, said after the vote.

Habitat has not finalized details, and the group’s leaders continue to mull designs. Miller said the development will encompass between two and four units, with at least three layouts under consideration. She said the project might be two houses, two duplexes or one duplex and one house.

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Those details will be decided before Habitat approaches City Hall for another round of approvals. The city’s Planning Commission must consider a project once Habitat submits an application.

Miller said Habitat wants to start construction in June, with the project done by October. She expects neighbors will not oppose the work and they will be "OK with it."

Neighbors on the tightly packed Marsac Avenue corridor did not turn out in significant numbers as the City Council considered providing Habitat the land. The city’s Planning Commission must hold at least one hearing before it approves the project, and it is unclear whether neighbors will be interested in the proceedings.

Some neighbors along Marsac Avenue and other streets in upper Old Town have been worried about development applications in the neighborhood before, and the Habitat talks will likely continue as City Hall considers another work force housing project along the Marsac Avenue corridor. The Empire Pass developer wants to build a larger project nearby.

"I think it’s momentum toward the whole affordable-housing focus in the town," Miller said.

City Hall officials and activists have long argued that providing work force housing is important in a city where many workers are priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market. The backers say Park City will be more diverse and a better place to live if people of varying economic means can afford to live locally.

Opponents, though, sometimes worry that work force housing projects are too large, they attract too much traffic and they could potentially depress surrounding housing values.

People interested in buying one of the units, which Miller said will be priced at about $250,000, well under the market rate in the neighborhood, must qualify through an application, and Habitat selects the buyers.

People must help build the housing.