Longtime Park City planner, drawn to East Side canvas, joins county team
The Summit County Planning Department got a new “utility infielder” when Kirsten Whetstone came over from Park City’s Planning Department to fill a newly created role on the team.
But Whetstone is no rookie: She brings 35 years of planning experience, including the last 24 as a Park City planner.
Community Development Director Pat Putt said she was the “ideal” hire.
“She might be playing shortstop in one game, working on village overlay, and then playing left field the next game with a Kimball Junction redevelopment or ski area project,” Putt said.
Whetstone said she has helped plan projects like Empire Pass, Deer Crest and Park City Heights, and Putt cited her experience when he said he “wouldn’t think twice” about assigning her a major redevelopment project because she’s managed many of them in the past.
Whetstone said she was drawn to the job for the “creativity” that will be required to help plan the county’s 1,800 square miles, something that was harder to come by working for the city in recent years.
“In Park City, a lot of that planning has been done,” Whetstone said. “I’m looking forward to interacting with the East Side communities. That’s where you get to use the land planning, all the principles of planning. That’s why you plan, not the very end where you’re dealing with the setbacks and materials.”
Whetstone discovered her future career while engineering fish ladders to help salmon bypass waterfalls in Alaska. After graduating from Stanford with a degree in civil engineering, she crossed paths with other professionals, like biologists and foresters as an engineer-in-training for the U.S. Forest Service. It was while visiting Alaskan communities with the planning professionals that she discovered she liked that better than engineering.
She pursued a master’s degree in town and regional planning at Utah State University, where she met her husband, Summit County Health Department Director Richard Bullough, whom she said at the time was driving a school bus and working in a bike shop.
In 1994, Whetstone took a job as a planner with Park City, which less than a year later hired Putt as its planning director. She stayed until earlier this month, and started work at the county June 10.
One of the first projects she’ll work on is something called a “village overlay” that would cover a roughly 1,100-acre area in and around Hoytsville. The idea is to create a plan for the area that would allow more zoning flexibility than the usual single-family or agricultural designations. The process could end up with the creation of a new arts district, for example, areas of increased density or affordable housing. It stops short of incorporating the area as a town, something the residents rejected at the polls in 2018.
Whetstone was enthusiastic about the possibilities, musing about creating a central gathering space like a park, or maybe a small Main Street with shops.
“We don’t know what kind of things might work out there,” she said. The first step is a listening session with the 28 landowners who applied for the overlay, and Whetstone said her goal is to listen more than talk.
It’s the opportunity to work on something new that drew Whetstone to the county.
“When that position came available, I just thought I would be a fool not to apply,” Whetstone said. “The opportunity to do actual land-use planning is incredible.”
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