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NoMa changes advance

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF
Stores in NoMa would be limited in size under rules that the Park City Council will consider. Grayson West/Park Record
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The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday night endorsed wide-ranging changes to the development rules of the North of Main district, including a controversial provision that could allow buildings taller than those that are normally approved in the neighborhood.

The Planning Commission vote culminated months of wrangling regarding the future of the district, sometimes called NoMa, which is seen by some developers as having the potential of becoming one of the city’s hotspots, full of shops, restaurants and other attractions.

Commissioners voted 5-1, with Evan Russack dissenting, to advance the package of changes to the Park City Council, which has the authority over such matters. The changes would be added to the city’s General Plan, a document that broadly outlines how City Hall wishes Park City to grow. Russack wanted the Planning Commission to be given another review of the changes later.

The City Council is tentatively scheduled to start its discussions about the district on Oct. 12, with a hearing potentially slated for Oct. 19.

The two key clauses in the package would regulate the height of future buildings and how much space they could have.

If approved by the City Council, developers in the district could construct buildings up to 45 feet tall, including a pitched roof. That height is between three and four stories tall. Under current rules, builders are restricted to 35 feet with an allowance for another five feet if the roof is pitched.

Bigger developments, however, now do not have a height restriction. The Planning Commission currently considers an appropriate height when weighing whether to approve those applications. Under the new rules, however, those projects would also be restricted to buildings up to 45 feet tall.

Meanwhile, the Planning Commission recommended that stores and other commercial tenants be restricted to 10,000 square feet. That figure is down from a 20,000-square-foot limit that was previously considered. There would be exceptions to the 10,000-square-foot restrictions for grocery stores and movie theaters, though. Currently there are not limits to the square footage of buildings. Instead the size of the parcels where they are located restrict how big they are.

It was unclear until the Wednesday vote how much Planning Commission support the changes had. Testimony during public hearings through much of 2006 was split, with the supporters saying that the NoMa district needed to be enlivened and the relaxed rules would help those efforts. The critics worried that the taller buildings would loom over the neighborhood.

Planning Commissioners on Wednesday continued to tinker with the details of the changes but a majority was ready to advance them to the City Council. There was some concern about regulating the mix of national and local retailers and restaurants in the district, worries about the timing of possible traffic studies and praise for the taller building heights, which one Planning Commissioner said allows for unique designs.

A developer, Rodman Jordan, who did not attend the Wednesday meeting, largely spurred the discussions. He owns or controls large swaths of the NoMa district, centered along Bonanza Drive and spreading to the east and west.

Led by Jordan, some of the merchants in the district have pressed for the changes. Loosening the development rules, they say, would allow for better-designed projects, which would boost the district’s economic potential.

Jordan envisions that NoMa one day will be a popular spot for Parkites and visitors, full of lofts, condos and unique shopping. There is talk of upgrades to the roads in the neighborhood, perhaps a ski lift and maybe parking garages.

The district now houses lots of offices, retailers and everyday businesses like Laundromats and gas stations. In recent years, though, there have been other sorts of stores open, like White Pine Touring, an outdoors shop. Jordan wants a mixture of nationally known stores and those owned locally in his developments.

The Planning Commission vote did not contemplate the individual development applications that would be required in the future, though. Instead, if the City Council adopts the changes, the developers would submit applications for specific projects. The Planning Commission would likely have the authority over many of those.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the Planning Commission was cautioned about the changes, including their possible effects on Main Street.

Tom Fey, who lives in Park Meadows, said he had concerns about what he described as the potential for "a massive development" in a neighborhood where traffic is already bad. He also worried about Main Street’s economy if NoMa were to compete.

"I don’t think Park City should have two downtowns," Fey said, adding that he wanted the square footage in the district restricted, the number of buildings kept to a limit and a height restriction imposed.

The potential effects on Main Street were broached, with concerns that NoMa could siphon business.

Kate Doordan, who works on Main Street, said the street cannot ward off lots of competition.

"Let’s be careful," she said, adding, "Main Street does need support, political support."

Mike Sweeney, whose family has business interests on Main Street, said the street would continue to draw people if NoMa is transformed. He said he prefers that NoMa be energized and said people visiting that district would also go to Main Street.

"The worse-case scenario is leaving it the way it is," Sweeney said.


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