Parcel’s future perplexes City Hall
City Hall might be required to rebuild Aerie Drive, the long, steep road to the Aerie neighborhood, if it wants to put up a small affordable-housing project off the street.
The proposition of redoing the road is pricey and the local government continues to mull what to do with a parcel of land it owns off the Aerie Drive-Deer Valley Drive intersection, near the bottom of the street.
The city could pursue affordable housing there or could keep the land as open space, two options that fit with City Hall’s long-held priorities.
Eric DeHaan, the city engineer, estimates it would cost $2 million to realign the road through switchbacks. At the bottom, the road now reaches a 14.85 percent grade, one of the steepest major streets in Park City, DeHaan says. He indicates City Hall no longer designs or allows streets with more than a 10 percent grade.
"It’s generally regarded as too steep," DeHaan says, describing the potential of about a quarter mile of switchbacks starting at the bottom of the street.
He acknowledges the switchback option is unlikely and says the government could instead negotiate with the city’s Planning Commission to receive an exemption to the 10 percent grade benchmark. He says the commissioners could make such a determination by deeming the road safe for the housing development.
"They would be unsightly. The grading for that would be enormous cuts and fills," DeHaan says about the switchback potential.
The land where the housing could be constructed sits on the north side of Aerie Drive just below the Hearthstone subdivision.
The City Council in early February discussed the parcel and Tom Bakaly, the city manager, expects the talks will continue as early as March 15. There have not been widespread comments from the Aerie neighborhood about the options. March 15, Bakaly says, more precise estimates will be prepared.
The city realizes the $2 million estimated for the roadwork would add significantly to the price of building affordable housing. That would make the units more expensive for buyers.
"If we had to do switchbacks or if we had to re-grade Aerie Drive . . . that is going to make the project expensive," Bakaly says.
City Hall paid $150,000 for the 4.51-acre parcel in 2005, in what staffers say was a "bargain sale" in an effort to ensure access to the Lost Prospector trail. A report to Mayor Dana Williams and the City Council indicates the land was worth $300,000. It says staffers found building affordable housing would be difficult and expensive, though.
A consultant agreed, writing in a Jan. 22 memo to City Hall, "this property clearly would not provide housing that would be affordable to Park City’s workforce families."
Still, the government has started what has been billed as an aggressive affordable-housing program, eyeing land that City Hall owns or could eventually control. Other land that has drawn recent interest from city officials include a parcel of land off Snow Creek Drive, just east of the site where a police station is under construction, the land where the Park Avenue fire station sits and a small parcel off Marsac Avenue, across the street from the Sandridge parking lot.
The affordable-housing supporters say the city is better off if people like police officers and firefighters can live locally. Otherwise, Park City’s resort-driven real estate market prices lots of people out of the city.
Meanwhile, conserving the land as open space would advance City Hall’s renowned conservation program. Voters in the city three times have overwhelmingly passed open-space bonds, providing a combined $40 million in conservation money.
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