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Park City candidates answer to 20/30 vision

ANNA BLOOM

Have the 20- and 30-year-olds abandoned their mission to be community activists? Or, was the lackluster attendance at this weeks 20/30 Vision meeting a reflection of a tame 2005 Park City Council election? At Wednesday night s 20/30 Vision s Candidate Forum, 15 attendants could barely fill the first few rows of chairs in the council chambers fewer than half the group s two previous assemblies. I just think there s just not that much excitement. There isn t a super hot issue right now, and there aren t very many people running, said Katherine Matsumoto, 20/30 Vision s innovator and organizer. With the exception of Park City Council candidate Mark Blue, the panel of candidates consisted of seasoned council veterans, most of whom previously served alongside each other: Roger Harlan, who served on Park City Council before the 2002 Olympics, incumbent council member Jim Hier, and incumbent Mayor Dana Williams, who is running unopposed. Incumbent council member Kay Calvert, who dropped out of the race, also joined the discussion. Matsumoto questioned the panel about The Sweeney family s Treasure Hill project, Intermountain Health Care s proposal for a hospital at Quinn s Junction and affordable housing, which appeared to elicit very little debate amongst the speakers. The experience of the candidates combined with their familiarity with one another, appeared to leave little room for dissent, Matsumoto noted. We did have a good conversation, I think, but there didn t seem to be any disagreement. she said. It s nice to see that there s a mutual respect between the people that lead our town, but at some points, it felt like we were talking to an old boys club. Candidates allied for responsible growth Candidates concurred that though they were not in full support of the Sweeney s proposal for their 19,000 square-foot, 282-unit Treasure Hill project near Town Lift, the developers do own vested rights to the land, and compromise would be their tactic. The plans for the Sweeney s project were approved in 1986. Harlan, who expressed some concern about the safety of construction on a steep slope, concluded that the best way to mitigate the impact of the Sweeney project would be to use appropriate force to negotiate a compromise. Part of the experience of Park City is visual, he said. I don t think anyone has any idea how much this project could change the face of this town if it were built out to the extent that the Sweeney brothers propose&I think the key thing is that the city needs to be appropriate. [The Sweeneys] have rights and Utah is a huge property rights state, Hier agreed. It s hard to argue a motion against the traffic engineering study because it says the project works. We need to work with the Sweeneys. Calvert said she came to council with strong opinions, but found that part of the challenge of participating in government is being forced to consider the other side. The density approved for the Sweeney s 11-acre project on the slopes near Park City Mountain Resort might be staggering, but Williams anticipated the project would be approved as the last large-scale vested interest project since the city changed codes to give projects a drop date in 1996. Blue, pursuing his fourth attempt to join Park City Council this year, took the spirit of concession a step further. I remember when the Sweeneys wanted to build a bridge and everyone complained that we didn t have water so we didn t need a bridge, he recalled. And now it s really improved skiing for PCMR and brought business to lower Main Street. I have complete faith in the Sweeneys. How could you not want a hospital? Blue expressed a similar gung-ho position on the proposed IHC hospital, describing the 30-year plan as one of the most important things to come into this town that might attract even more people to stay in town year round to raise families and handle traumas in a more efficient way. Other members of the panel cited the potential benefits of a local hospital, which will include a home base for the United States Ski Association (USSA), but questioned its economic sustainability and the demand. It s like apple pie. How could you not like a hospital? It s good for people, Hier said. But it s a net loss to the city. Most of it is non-taxable, and it would require 800 to 900 employees which would mean the affordable housing burden would be huge. On the issue of providing affordable housing for Park City s workforce, Williams noted affordable ownership of homes was the most pressing issue. Making Park City an affordable home For a long time, the city looked to Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, but we re currently working on revamping the city s housing authority with the help of Phyllis Robinson, who actually started Mountainlands, he said. It s not about high-density, employee housing, but about housing that people would be willing to raise their children in. The city is planning to build a 400-to 600-unit structure that will be built in one of two locations either in Snow Creek or by the old sewer treatment site, according to Hier. As Harlan notes on his campaign baseball cards, during his nine and a half years on council, he helped to bring the first affordable housing project to town with Daly Avenue s 10 duplexes. The city has been instrumental in the past when it comes to affordable housing, there s no reason why we can t be again, he said. Blue pointed to the neighborhoods reactions to new low-income housing. It s not what the city can do for affordable housing, it s what outlying communities are willing to accept. he explained. Communication in this situation is key. Matsumoto said that despite the amicable discussion, and the meager turnout, the talk was informative. I m disappointed in the turnout and it makes me suspect this year there will be a low-voter count this year, she explained. I do hope people will vote, because I see it as a very valuable part of getting involved in the community. Polls will open on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. For more information on voting, please see page A-7.


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