Old Town homeowners are first to try to sell off rights to build addition
July 8, 2011
A Michigan couple who owns a 19th century Old Town house wants to sell off to a developer their rights to someday build an addition, becoming the first property owners to submit paperwork to participate in a newly created City Hall program allowing some people to sell development rights to another landowner.
Steve and Laura Atkins, who live in Dundee, Mich., and own a house at 1101 Norfolk Ave., in late May filed an application requesting that the Park City Planning Department determine the amount of development rights they are entitled to sell off as part of the program.
City Hall staffers have not finalized a determination. The staffers must calculate the value of what is known as a development credit. The development credit could then be sold to another landowner. The development credit awarded the Atkins will be calculated using a formula that takes into account the square footage of the house now and the square footage that could be put into an addition to the Norfolk Avenue house.
Staffers, though, will not assign a square footage to the development credit. That instead will be determined when it is known where the development rights will be sold.
Once the calculations are complete, Thomas Eddington, the planning director, will issue the Atkins a letter outlining the development credit that could be sold off. At that point, the Atkins would need to enter into negotiations with a landowner who is allowed to purchase development credits. Those negotiations would be between the Atkins and the landowner, with City Hall not having a role.
City Hall’s recent decision to temporarily halt processing some Old Town zoning applications to allow time to consider further restrictions on the size of houses in the neighborhood has complicated the matter, though. The Atkins did not complete the paperwork before a deadline prior to the stoppage beginning. The tighter restrictions under consideration could further limit the size of additions. If that occurs, the development potential at the Norfolk Avenue house could be reduced, likely making a development credit less valuable.
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Laura Atkins said in an interview the couple has owned the house for nearly eight years, using it as a residence earlier and now keeping it as a vacation home and rental property. She said she prefers Old Town houses that are smaller than some that have been built in recent years.
"I wouldn’t want to see it turned into a huge piece of property," Atkins said. "It’s what it should be. I wouldn’t want to see it any other way."
The larger houses have spurred disputes about the proper size of houses in Old Town.
Atkins has owned the house for nearly eight years and recently redid the interior, she said. The house is 1,168 square feet, according to Summit County property records. The Summit County Assessor’s Office values the house and the land it is on at just less than $272,000. It is 1 1/2 stories tall, Atkins said. The house dates to the 1890s.
"If we could sell those development rights and make some money to pay for the house, to be honest, that would be a win-win," she said.
Atkins acknowledged that she is unsure what the development rights will be worth once they are put up for sale to one of the landowners where they could be purchased. She said she has not entered into formal negotiations with any of the landowners. If a deal is finalized, the Atkins would be required to place a restriction on the deed of the house prohibiting an addition.
The idea of putting in play the development rights attached to historic houses like the one owned by the Atkins was broached and then approved during the wider discussions about the program. The size of additions to historic houses has long been a point of contention in Old Town, with the homeowners wanting to be allowed to build large additions and neighbors and the preservation community generally preferring smaller ones or none at all.
In allowing the development rights to be sold from historic houses, Park City leaders hope to reduce the growth pressure on the neighborhood that has led to localized disputes over the years. The program could also preserve Old Town’s quaint streetscapes, supporters say.
The City Hall determination involving the Atkins house and the subsequent marketing of the development credit will likely be closely watched by others in similar situations. If a sale is finalized and a price tag someday made public, it could encourage or discourage further deals depending on the dollar figure attached to the transaction.