More Dogs on Main Street
I generally try to avoid studying the applications in front of the city planning department. But there have been two items in the last little while that have caught my attention. The first item is the proposed annexation of 256 acres into Park City. This is land more or less on the corner of US-40 and Highway 248, across from the National Ability Center campus. It’s accessed by a road affectionately known as the "Old Dump Road." Somehow, I suspect the developer will want that changed to something that sounds a little more upscale. The project is known as "Park City Heights."
I’m all for the annexation. If there is going to be development there (and it seems certain that there is going to be development everywhere), it might as well be in the city as under the county jurisdiction. If the city lets it develop under the county, it becomes much more difficult to expand the city limits later on. So there’s no question that in our quest to keep paving, it should be paved under the city’s jurisdiction.
It’s a big project, with a total of 303 units. Of those, 157 would be "market" units and the other 146 would be "affordable" units whatever that means these days. Of the affordable units, 64 are required in conjunction with this and other projects, but there are an additional 82 units that are just additional housing for middle-class people. We’ve got a terrible housing problem in the area, and it’s hard to find fault with the idea of building an extra 82 units for families of sort of average means. They are relatively close to the schools and other services.
But and there always is a "but" when it comes to something this size the traffic generated by those 303 primary residences, which are targeted at a market segment that is likely to include young families, will all feed on to SR 248. Every single vehicle will be making a turn on to 248, and if it is headed into town, it’s a left turn. If the developer’s traffic engineer is to be believed, we won’t even notice the increase. We also won’t notice the increase from the hospital, they said. Actually, since the road is a parking lot now, we probably won’t notice that there are an additional 3,000 vehicles a day unable to move. The gridlock that lasts for a couple of hours in the morning will just last all day.
Anybody driving 248 already notices the traffic from the hospital. It’s only a few construction workers, cement trucks and dump trucks so far. But it made the already bad situation worse. Wait until we get the 1,500 trips a day generated from employees, suppliers, doctors and patients. Three hundred homes will generate a lot of traffic. There are kids to schlep to school, day care, soccer, and on and on. Those trips will occur at the peak rush hour (when everybody else is driving to work and school). If there are four trips per household, that’s an additional 1,200 cars a day on 248. By some counts, a typical primary residence generates twice that number of trips.
So, while I’m all in favor of the annexation, and the construction of much needed middle-class housing, the city shouldn’t approve as much as a phone booth on this or any other property along 248 until there is a solution to the existing traffic mess. Once 248 is widened to four lanes, looking at this application makes sense. Until then, it’s sheep pasture.
The other big deal is the attempt to rein in the size of Old Town houses. Somehow, we’ve gone from the quaint miner’s cottage to houses of several thousand square feet crammed on to lots no bigger than a Promontory living room. So there is another effort to set standards on size, mass, height, placement, and so on. It’s very complicated. Each time this has been attempted, creative designers find a way around it and build bigger houses than before.
I’ve got a solution. You can build anything you want on an Old Town lot build as big, tall, deep and wide as you want. The only restriction is that you have to clean it yourself. If forced to clean the house himself or herself, the owner would quickly come to the conclusion that more is not necessarily better. Houses would suddenly shrink to something reasonable, and the monster homes would become duplexes in a hurry. It’s a lot easier than design guidelines.
The other big news this week is that we are all shocked, shocked to learn that major league baseball is laced with steroids. I never would have imagined such a thing. I just assumed that all those guys had arms as big as a normal man’s waist because of good nutrition. But they are on the juice. I couldn’t have been more surprised if you had told me there is cocaine at Sundance.
Christmas is here. Another year is coming to a close. I’m now in my 20th year of writing this bird cage liner every week. That’s longer than any other job I’ve held. The amazing thing is that it’s still fun. My desk is a pile of little notes to myself about things as divergent as steroids in baseball and traffic on 248. Strange things pop out at me, like the new warning signs on the lifts at Deer Valley. They have little international stick figures to help their illiterate customers. There is one that warns to check for clothing or equipment that might be stuck in the chair as you approach the unloading station. It’s quite graphic, with the poor little stick figure being violently choked by a scarf with a big red X. The stick figure is in great pain, and his head actually detached. Somebody should rescue the poor little stick figure. It’s quite disturbing.
What’s more disturbing is that I get paid to notice stuff like that, and you actually read it! Thanks for your support and indulgence, and all the best at Christmas time.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs On Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for nearly 20 years.
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In an intriguing sidebar to the overall Park City Planning Commission talks about a proposed project at Park City Mountain Resort, the developer recently mentioned a future Winter Olympics in the context of the project.