Park City Council contestants outline S.R. 248, housing stands at an election forum
The seven people vying for the Park City Council on Tuesday evening appeared together for the first time at an election forum, covering a broad range of topics like transportation and housing, in a cordial event that highlighted lots of agreement on the overarching campaign issues even as the candidates attempted to separate themselves with details.
The Park City unit of the League of Women Voters hosted the forum at the Park City Library on the same day the Summit County Clerk’s Office sent the ballots in the vote-by-mail City Council primary election. Voters will drop one candidate from a field of seven in the primary. All seven of the candidates appeared at the event.
In one of the key questions, the candidates were asked about a controversial Utah Department of Transportation concept for a major redo of the S.R. 248 entryway as state transportation officials prepare for the expected growth in the area in coming decades. There is widespread concern in the community about the impact of the concept on traffic and safety. The future of S.R. 248 largely rests at the state level, but the current City Council has formally expressed concern.
Each of the candidates provided short answers regarding S.R. 248 that illustrated worries. Deanna Rhodes argued for a regional solution for transportation issues and said the state does not understand Park City’s desires for S.R. 248. Nann Worel, an incumbent City Councilor seeking reelection, said she wants a transit line on S.R. 248. Max Doilney said he favors a mass-transit solution on the state highway. Chadwick Fairbanks III said S.R. 248 is a conundrum with dangerous backups, adding perhaps traffic-control points could be considered. Becca Gerber, another incumbent City Councilor seeking reelection, said regional work is needed on transit, and pedestrian and bicyclist opportunities need to be broadened. Daniel Lewis spoke about expanding transit, including running bus lines later at night. Ed Parigian acknowledged that work on S.R. 248 might be inevitable, but the community must offer resistance, describing the possibility of better managing the lanes of traffic on S.R. 248.
The state concept for S.R. 248 in recent weeks became a polarizing issue as City Hall and many Parkites quickly mobilized against the idea even as there has appeared to be scattered support for the work from commuters exhausted with the long rush-hour backups. It is not clear, though, whether S.R. 248 will become a crucial issue in the City Hall campaign as the contest becomes more focused in the fall since so much of the decision-making will be done by the state.
The candidates also addressed City Hall’s housing programs, designed to offer opportunities for people otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market. Housing is a municipal priority, and the candidates provided brief rundowns of their ideas. The candidates indicated they support the ideals underpinning the housing programs.
Doilney said City Hall needs regional relationships as leaders address housing, acknowledging not everyone can fit into Park City itself. Worel spoke about the possibility of creating accessory apartments in residences through changes in zoning laws. Rhodes worried about the loss of the workforce and advocated for housing for rank-and-file workers. Parigian said City Hall should purchase one or two houses per year to put into the affordable stock. Lewis advocated for further discussions about bus lines in the context of the housing talks. Gerber talked about continuing the municipal housing efforts inside Park City as well as nearby, describing the need for rental units as part of the program. Fairbanks called for collaboration on housing issues regionally, mentioning possibilities in Kamas that the Park City government could pursue.
Some of the other topics covered by the candidates included:
• Parigian questioning the need to develop an arts and culture district in Park City, wondering how such a district would benefit the broad population of the community and saying the land could have a more locally focused use.
• Doilney talking about the possibility of implementing a minimum wage of $15 per hour in Park City. He did not provide details, but such a move would conflict with the state-mandated minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
• Fairbanks saying residences that are rented on a nightly basis are part of the free-market economy, describing so-called nightly rentals as a “scapegoat” as he answered a question about the future of Park City neighborhoods.
• Rhodes saying the workforce needs to be represented on the City Council as she told the crowd Park City “only works when it works for everyone.”
• Worel describing a desire to weigh decisions through the lens of the affordability of Park City for people in the middle class and those with lower incomes.
• Lewis, in response to a question about items City Hall should be addressing, saying the municipal government could become more involved in childcare.
• Gerber describing nightly rentals as making it difficult on the surrounding neighborhood with noise as she also noted people renting places on a nightly basis many times do not pay taxes on the rentals.
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The unemployment rate in Summit County in September rose slightly and the state upwardly revised the August figure, evidence job gains in the Park City-area have largely stalled.