Land deal OK’d, but how much sprawl did City Hall block? |

Land deal OK’d, but how much sprawl did City Hall block?

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

A parcel of land City Hall has agreed to purchase in Thaynes Canyon to preserve as open space could not have been heavily developed under its current zoning restrictions, meaning it is unclear to what extent officials will have checked sprawl with the deal.

The Park City Council on Thursday night, on a 4-0 vote with City Councilman Joe Kernan not in attendance, approved the $5 million purchase. It encompasses 136 acres of mountainous land running between the Silver Star development and Park City Mountain Resort’s King Con lift. The purchase is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30.

Nobody testified before the City Council vote, and the elected officials did not speak extensively about the deal. Mayor Dana Williams said the purchase, made from the Armstrong family, had been a "long time coming." In a prepared statement released by City Hall, a member of the Armstrong family, Kerry Armstrong, said "it would break our hearts" if the land was developed.

The land is just outside the Park City limits and is governed by Summit County’s development rules. Summit County has put the land in its ‘mountain remote’ zone, a highly restrictive designation. Under the county’s development rules, one house is allowed on each 120 acres of land within the zone.

A guiding principle of City Hall’s open space program has long been to check development through the land purchases. The local government, as an example, has spent millions of dollars purchasing large swaths of land along S.R. 224 and S.R. 248 in an effort to create scenic, sprawl-free entryways.

Changing the zoning on the land would have required the owners approach Summit County officials. The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission and the County Council each would have needed to consider a change in the zone, and zone changes sometimes are polarizing decisions.

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But there also would have been the possibility that the landowners someday would have asked City Hall to annex the parcel into the Park City limits. Such a request would have triggered wide-ranging negotiations between the landowner and City Hall, with zoning being a crucial part of the discussions.

It is probable that the zoning that City Hall would have agreed to in an annexation would have been less restrictive than the mountain remote zone the county has placed on the land.

"Annexation potential equates to development potential," the mayor said.

Some notable annexation-development deals City Hall has negotiated include Empire Pass and Deer Crest, both in Deer Valley, and Silver Star on the edge of Thaynes Canyon.

The mayor acknowledged it is "hard to say" what the development potential of the land would have been. Perhaps, he said, the landowner could have won an approval for an estate-style development with houses built on lots of two or three acres each.

"I think that the pressure for potential development would have increased over time," he said.