Park City Council 2023 Voter Guide: Candidates address resort development
Note: The Park Record asked the Park City Council candidates questions about a range of key issues in the community. The answers were published first in the Nov. 4 edition of The Park Record. This is part of a series of eight questions that were posed to the candidates.
The Park Record:
There are longstanding development rights attached to land at the base of Park City Mountain and the Snow Park base of Deer Valley Resort. What are your visions for the two base areas and how could those visions be realized? If plans are ultimately put before the City Council for final approval or denial, how would you weigh your hopes for the land against the concepts from the resorts, as well as against the existing development rights secured decades ago?
Nearly 85% of the City’s budget is derived from tourism. We can not fund the amazing assets and programs we have if we negatively impact this revenue. However we will not have a place our residents would call home if the impacts of tourism spoil it. From a business perspective there are two ways to drive revenue. Volume or prices. Residents agree, more cars coming into Park City (higher volume) is not the preferred strategy. To maintain and perhaps even grow our tourism revenue without additional volume, we need to offer a better product and better experience. Both base area developments offer that opportunity. The biggest fear is what both of those projects will do to traffic. This is why I firmly believe a strategy to reduce cars coming into Park City is in the residents best interest. If we can deliver a bold transformative plan on traffic, we can shape both projects in a way that serves our guests, but more importantly can reduce the impact on our residents. These are parking lots and there are existing entitlements, beautiful redevelopment that fits the scale and needs of the city would be an improvement. Park City should be world class.
Deer Valley and Park City hold entitled development rights at their base areas, and of course we must respect those property rights. These developments will come. The planning commission and council’s role in reviewing their development plans – should the resorts stick with plans that match what is already entitled today – will be to ensure these projects simply conform with our development code.
However, to the extent that exceptions are requested from existing development rights, it’s incumbent on the council to evaluate those exceptions against countervailing community interests, and the extent to which any exceptions serve the community’s goals in areas such as transportation, housing, sustainability, and others. I’m proud of the work of both our planning commission and engaged residents in holding developers accountable for compliance with our codes, and ensuring that development that does occur in Park City is forward-thinking, harmonious, and truly additive to the experience of both residents and visitors.
My visions for the two base areas are that resident concerns are addressed, the plans make sense for the community, and the resorts are excited about their future investments. In other words, everybody walks away happy. Those plans are realized through trust, communication, long hours, creativity, bowls of hot chili, and splashes of serenity. There is no other way.
None of this is possible without people activating and I believe we have leaders at both Park City Mountain and Deer Valley that the City Council can work with. The existing development rights secured decades ago are something the city can use to its advantage because those rights are largely too dated for the resorts to seriously consider. This is where having a robust public benefits analysis is key to advancing our vision as a community because the resorts will play ball to advance their interests.
My hope is that the community and the resorts can find higher uses for many of the existing development rights secured decades ago. Sustainable coordinated development, mitigating tourism impacts on residents’ quality of life, and protecting the environment are the gold standards here.
The resort operators and the city have a good mutual understanding of the importance of transit. The piece of the puzzle which has not yet been addressed is the sheer volume of parking in our downtown area.
The resorts own the development rights to their own base areas, and they will naturally envision base areas which they feel create a great experience for their guests. However, the parking that they build at their base areas is a burden that is felt city-wide, most obviously on SR-224 and SR-248. The congestion brings cost to our economy, our public health, and our quality of life.
On parking, the status quo must be flipped. City Hall must stop forcing huge amounts of parking on developers, and instead must be critical of the role that privately-owned parking lots have on the general public.
It’s up to the resorts to design their bases. I’ll instead focus on the city-wide system and seek to address the challenges posed by the large visitation to our city.
The critical factor in the question is “development rights.” As with any property owner, certain rights are attached to a property when it is purchased, and those rights are eternal. My visions and hopes are for projects that are physically appealing, adequately massed, and respect the history of Park City and our dark skies. But I don’t control all that. After the Planning Commission has vetted any project (with help from the public) and forwards its recommendation, my job as a Councilor is to represent the community and make sure that everything is in order.
We have large base projects coming up. One is DV/Alterra, and the other is the second application coming from PCMR/ Vail. I was active in opposing the PCMR base proceedings at Planning Commission meetings, constantly pointing out where this development fell short of complying with the LMC without any countervailing community benefits. I feel our effort led to the withdrawal of the initial application, and ultimately a better project. As a Councilor, I will support a responsible process that does not require opposition groups to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect the community from what are sometimes obvious violations of our LMC.
We must work with our resort partners to maximize their visitor experience, while we simultaneously work with them to mitigate their impacts on our community, especially traffic. We must also prioritize protecting the safety and convenience of our residents and visitors.
Both resorts have long-standing development rights, and we must ensure that they’re developed responsibly, with a thoughtful eye on the General Plan and Land Management Code. We must also allow them to evolve by modernizing both bases into world-class-worthy destinations.
If we don’t encourage this, both resorts might choose to move their base of operations from Park City to the Mayflower portal and to the Canyons portal. If that happens, there’s a chance we could lose our primary ski entrances and tax base, which would be game-changers for Park City and Main Street.
Park City’s Mission Statement reads: “Through high quality service to our community and guests we will provide a memorable and unique experience while preserving and enriching park city’s heritage, diversity and environment.” And it goes on to state that our goal is to be: “The Best Resort Town in America.”
Let’s work together to find innovative solutions to support that awesome Mission!
- Nov. 13: Last day to register to vote in person or online at vote.utah.gov.
- Nov. 16, 17, 18 and 20: Early voting in the general election from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Nov. 21: Election Day. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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