In Claim Jumper building dispute, who will get to yell ‘bingo?’
June 29, 2012
The development team preparing to undertake a major renovation of the Claim Jumper building on Main Street encountered resistance Wednesday night, hearing from an attorney representing people who live or own property on nearby Park Avenue and members of the Park City Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission, the building representatives and an attorney working for the neighbors held a lengthy discussion before the panel acknowledged it was not prepared to cast a vote. The Planning Commission delayed a decision until at least July 11, and it seemed that it could be a split vote at that time.
The owner of the Claim Jumper building, an Oklahoma City firm known as 573 Main Street LLC, seeks a change to the Park City plat map. It wants to combine six full lots and portions of two others into three lots. The change would clear up underlying lot lines. That would allow the owner to pursue the renovation and seek approvals to build two houses on the Park Avenue side of the property. A parking lot now occupies the space where the houses might someday be built.
The Planning Commission will eventually forward a recommendation to the Park City Council. The elected officials may accept or reject the lower panel’s recommendation.
The owner wants to renovate the historic building, one of the largest structures on Main Street, with a restaurant-bar in the basement, a lobby on the Main Street level and two condominiums occupying the upper floors.
The Claim Jumper building has been without a year-round tenant for years, and it has stood as one of Park City’s starkest symbols of the recession. A previous owner held redevelopment plans but scrapped them as the economy soured and eventually lost the building in a trustee’s sale.
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The Planning Commission appeared to struggle as it tried to craft a recommendation. Brooke Hontz, a Planning Commissioner, was especially critical. She challenged the calculations of the sizes of the lots in question and worried about the zoning at the site.
The Planning Commission indicated it wanted a number of issues addressed in an approval, if one is granted at the July meeting. They included landscaping and a restriction on the number of doors that would allow someone to pass from one City Hall zone to another. There are two zones at the site, one for commercial properties and one designed for residential uses. The commercial zone regulates the Main Street side of the property while the residential one is underneath the Park Avenue lots tied to the Claim Jumper.
The mix of commercial and residential properties in Old Town has perplexed leaders for years. In some spots, especially along upper Park Avenue, there are residences steps from restaurants, nightclubs and stores. There have been long-running complaints from the people who live close to Main Street about noise and traffic from the street.
Joe Tesch, an attorney representing five nearby property owners, said a restaurant-bar would be aggravating to the neighborhood. The Claim Jumper building during the Sundance Film Festival is turned into a hotspot called the Bing Bar, named after the Microsoft search engine that sponsors the space. Tesch said there is sometimes a line of limousines on Park Avenue headed to the Bing Bar, which he referred to as the "Bingo Bar."
John Plunkett, who lives on Park Avenue close to the Claim Jumper, also mentioned the Bing Bar in his comments to the Planning Commission. He said the building is turned into a "four-story nightclub" during Sundance.
But an attorney representing the owner, Joe Wrona, disputed the assertions of the critics, saying they were trying to "impeach" the firm that has the building. He noted Tesch’s erroneous reference to the name of the hotspot during Sundance.
"It’s not Bingo," Wrona said.