Mayor’s agenda: housing, open space |

Mayor’s agenda: housing, open space

Mayor Dana Williams, who enjoys widespread popularity and was unopposed in November in his bid for a second term, won with just a smattering of write-in candidates stopping him from garnering 100 percent of the votes. Williams, as he prepares to be sworn into office for a second term, outlines an ambitious agenda for the next four years heavy on issues that have long been benchmarks of his political agenda. Williams is scheduled to take the oath of office on Jan. 12, during the first Park City Council meeting of the year. Park City Councilman Jim Hier, who was also re-elected in November, and Roger Harlan, who returns to the City Council after leaving office in early 2002, will also be sworn in. In a recent interview, Williams said issues like open space and affordable housing will be of significance in his second term. Williams had championed the two issues for years before his election, serving on City Hall’s open-space committee and lobbying for affordable housing. Williams hopes that, in his second term, City Hall completes several more purchases of "substantial pieces" of open space, saying that at least two parcels that the government is interested in are more than 100 acres each. It has been rare in recent years that the government has successfully negotiated purchases for swaths of land that size. He said the parcels are on the edge of Park City and would complete an open-space buffer around the city. He declined to identify the pieces, which is common when the government is interested in a parcel of land. "I think this would complete the vision that open space is an economic benefit to the community," Williams said, adding that the city’s open-space program has proven good for Park City’s tourism-driven economy. The government has spent roughly $17.5 million of $20 million in open-space bonds approved by voters in two elections. There have not been detailed discussions about how to fund open-space purchases once the bond monies are spent but Williams said, perhaps, City Hall would ask voters to approve bonds for individual parcels. That would be a strategy change from the previous bonds, which were for $10 million each but not tied to a specific piece of land. Currently, an open-space committee recommends parcels to purchase and the City Council then considers the recommendation. "I think if people knew the ground we were talking about, it might make them that much more supportive," Williams said. Meanwhile, Williams expects that City Hall will be more aggressive in affordable-housing issues in his second term, acknowledging that he would consider such projects for the government or in partnership with nonprofits. City leaders see affordable housing as important to the community to ensure economic diversity in Park City. They argue that the diversity makes Park City a better place. However, affordable-housing projects frequently encounter opposition, sometimes bitter, from neighbors who do not want the developments nearby. Williams said the government continues to research whether City Hall-owned properties are viable spots for affordable-housing projects but that there are not many parcels left. "We’re down to the end in terms of land that’s available," Williams said. He argues that City Hall should be involved in affordable-housing developments that offer ownership opportunities and ones for senior citizens, known as assisted living. Williams said, though, that the government should not be a partner in housing projects for seasonal workers and instead wants City Hall to expand talks with the private sector regarding those sorts of developments. The mayor said it appears most Parkites support social and economic diversity and predicts that they would back City Hall decisions to financially support affordable housing. Another priority, the mayor said, is securing new drinking-water sources. He said a proposed pipeline from the Rockport Reservoir to western Summit County is the best option to bring drinking water into the community. During his term, Williams said Parkites have become less abrasive when involved in government decisions and credited the trend to what he sees as City Hall’s commitment to public involvement. He said the government holds lots of public meetings and has seated task forces and so-called ‘friends’ groups, which usually are assigned to specific issues, like the under-construction ice arena. He also noted that officials no longer require that members of the public testifying at government meetings keep their comments to three minutes. "It promotes civility," he said.

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