July 23 editorial | ParkRecord.com

July 23 editorial

Housing project is a plus, as long as it's on dry and legal ground

In an ideal world, the market would provide enough affordable housing units so that government wouldn’t have to get involved.

But the market isn’t working. Even in the current economic downturn, real-estate prices in the Park City area are so inflated that they’re excluding a significant slice of the workforce. People like teachers and government employees, not to mention retail clerks and restaurant employees, can’t afford to live where they work.

So they live elsewhere and commute. As a result, highways such as S.R. 248 are choked with vehicles twice a day. And that’s before the completion of a hospital and U.S. Skiing headquarters at Quinn’s Junction.

The housing situation has reached crisis proportions.

Clearly, the answer isn’t to put even more people on the highways, especially given growing concern over pollution and fuel prices. Part of the solution has to be more work-force housing in Park City and the Snyderville Basin even if government has to get involved.

Park City’s plan to build 13 houses on six acres of city land won’t solve the problem by itself. But it’s a start.

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The land in question, directly east of the police station on Park Avenue, has a number of important advantages: It’s already in city hands. It’s close to supermarkets, schools and trails. And, thanks to its proximity to bus routes, it’s within reach of most major local employers.

There are some issues with the property, including two streams and areas of delineated wetlands. However, the proposal reviewed by the Planning Commission shows all buildings located outside those areas. More than 70 percent of the property is to be left as open space.

Area residents have appealed Planning Commission approval to the City Council, citing concerns over its impact on wildlife. Residents also object to the height of buildings that, they say, exceed Land Management Code limits by as much as 4 feet 4 inches. They point out that, for this project, the city is both the applicant and the ultimate arbiter.

Clearly, local government must play by its own rules. Like any other applicant, the city is entitled to ask for a variance. But, especially in light of the unusual situation, any exception must be on solid legal ground.

If we had a vote, given the information we have seen to date, we’d endorse the project.

This is one more example of the city leading by example. Now, if the private sector would only follow suit.