Old house doomed, neighbors fume
Some neighbors on a tiny street in upper Old Town are fuming that City Hall will allow an owner to demolish a house, saying that the person intends to build a much bigger one in its place.
The situation on Sandridge Avenue, which is located just off Marsac Avenue, is emblematic of the ongoing disputes in Park City’s most polarizing neighborhood, where neighbors are often leery of property owners’ plans to tear down old houses or build grand additions to them.
But Sandridge Avenue is usually a tucked-away neighborhood street where there have not been widespread development disputes.
The owner of a house at 156 Sandridge Ave. wants to tear down the house and then put up a new one. City Hall issued a demolition permit, the document the owner needs before the house is taken down, on May 1.
According to Brooks Robinson, who manages the day-to-day operations of the Planning Department, City Hall officials have determined the house is not historic, meaning it is not afforded protections others in the neighborhood are.
Robinson said there have been many changes to the house and it has lost its historic status, even though some parts of the structure date back years.
City Hall staffers have approved the designs for the house the owner wants to build. However, neighbors appealed the approval to the local government’s Planning chief. Gary Hill, who is the interim Planning director, has not made a ruling, Robinson said.
Robinson said the designs adhere to City Hall’s tight development guidelines in Old Town.
Wendy Van Reyper, who lives at 164 Sandridge Ave., approached the Park City Council on Thursday, saying she is unhappy with the prospects of the house being torn down and calling the new designs a "totally inappropriate house."
In an interview, Van Reyper said the new house will be too tall and City Hall is "allowing too much leeway for development."
"Sandridge is very special. It’s the heart of Old Town," she said, adding, "Maximum height does not fit in that neighborhood."
Beth Fratkin, who lives on Rossi Hill Drive and also attended the Thursday meeting, said in an interview said City Hall must put stricter limits on Old Town construction. She said she understands owners’ hold rights to develop, however.
Fratkin said people in Old Town are unhappy with the size of newer houses in the neighborhood.
"Take a walk in Old Town, any street. I see large buildings out of scale with the character of the neighborhood," she said.
The dispute about the Sandridge Avenue project resembles many others that have transpired over the years in Old Town. People who own old, in some cases rundown, houses in the neighborhood often want City Hall approval to tear them down, a scenario that typically worried officials and Old Town boosters.
Jonathan DeGray, the architect who designed the new house, said it will be about 2,000 square feet. He said the house there now is in terrible condition and there is little historic material left in the structure.
DeGray said the house will be demolished soon.
"It’s just, basically, a shell," he said.
Becca Gerber, a first-term member of the Park City Council who is seen as bringing a younger person’s perspective to the Marsac Building, will seek reelection this year.