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NoMa rules slog forward

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall officials this week continued their attempt to concoct a new set of zoning rules for the North of Main district, revisiting earlier discussions about limiting the height of buildings and the size of stores but not rendering a decision on the proposed changes.

The Park City Planning Commission is considering a wide-ranging set of changes to the development rules in the district, sometimes called NoMa, which stretches through much of the northern commercial areas of the city, especially along the Bonanza Drive corridor.

Some businesspeople, particularly Rodman Jordan, who is leading the district’s efforts and has significant holdings in the neighborhood, want City Hall to loosen the development rules, including allowing slightly taller buildings.

But others with businesses and some neighbors are leery of the package of changes that the Planning Commission is considering and have especially been upset with the prospects of buildings taller than those already in the district.

A Planning Commission hearing on Wednesday was sparsely attended, a contrast to previous meetings in which neighbors and businesspeople faced each other as each side lobbied for their vision of the neighborhood’s future.

The Planning Commissioners, meanwhile, offered limited comments about the proposed changes, which would be added to the city’s General Plan, a document that outlines in overall terms the direction that City Hall wants Park City to grow.

Commissioners were not prepared to vote on the changes on Wednesday and delayed further discussions until Sept. 27. The Planning Commission must recommend whether the City Council should approve the changes.

The City Council would then consider the lower panel’s recommendation and decide whether to adopt the changes to the General Plan. More hearings would be scheduled once the City Council begins its deliberations.

The potential of the government allowing developers to put up taller buildings has been of greatest concern to neighbors. They are worried that taller buildings would loom over the neighborhood, blocking views and sunlight.

Buildings in the neighborhood are now usually limited to 35 feet, which is about three stories, with an allowance for another five feet for buildings with a pitched roof. Under current rules, buildings within a larger project could be taller, however, if the government receives benefits like more open space.

The government, though, is considering rules that would ease the height restrictions, allowing for buildings up to five stories. There has been ongoing debate about what height should be allowed but the Planning Commission has not agreed to a limit.

The supporters say the taller buildings are needed to better design projects and protect open space. Neighbors are generally worried about their views and the streetscape.

Bruce Erickson, a City Hall consultant working on the package of changes in the district and a former Planning Commissioner, said after Wednesday’s meeting that a lengthy report regarding the changes will be revised. He said the revisions will include statements regarding height restrictions but he provided no details.

He said other issues that would be addressed include parking requirements, open space and the way buildings are situated along Bonanza Drive, the district’s main artery. Lots of Parkites are frustrated with traffic along Bonanza Drive, with backups common through much of the year.

Planning Commissioners did not speak at length about the potential changes but several made statements regarding building heights.

Charlie Wintzer, a Planning Commissioner with business interests in the district, said he does not want the government to increase the amount of development allowed if taller buildings are permitted.

Mark Sletten, a Planning Commissioner, worried that, if each building was designed to meet a lower height requirement, they will tend to resemble one another.

"We end up with a crew-cut look," Sletten said.

Wednesday’s meeting continued the efforts of Jordan and others in the district to transform the neighborhood from what is now primarily a destination for chores like doing the laundry and buying everyday goods. But people like Jordan instead want to create a happening neighborhood with nightlife and lots of people milling about.

The supporters want a ski lift built linking the neighborhood with Park City Mountain Resort, swanky shops to open and hope that the district becomes more inviting to pedestrians.

To do that, Jordan is counting on City Hall’s help, through zoning changes and money for public-sector improvements to the neighborhood. Jordan sees a revamped North of Main district as becoming more competitive with other destinations in the area like Redstone Towne Center.

The Planning Commission, meanwhile, is considering whether to limit the size of most businesses in the district to 20,000 square feet, with exceptions for grocery stores and theaters.

Supporters argue that the 20,000-square-foot cap would allow for a mix of retailers, including local businesses and national chains.

On Wednesday, Erickson said the proposed cap might be cut to 10,000 square feet per tenant but that decision had not been finalized.

The changes also contemplate tinkering with the way traffic flows in the district, including along Bonanza Drive.

There is discussion about allowing roundabouts on Bonanza Drive and requiring turnouts for buses. The city does not want to widen the street, though.

"That’s really the key," Wintzer, the Planning Commissioner, said about Bonanza Drive.


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