Park City Council, mayoral candidates stake similar positions
All support open space, wary of nightly rentals
Any undecided Parkites attending Monday night’s Park City candidate forum hoping to walk away with their minds made up may have left frustrated, as the three City Council candidates and two mayoral hopefuls staked out similar positions on many of the important topics.
The event, held at the Jim Santy Auditorium and hosted by the League of Women Voters and Voterise, was attended by Park City Mayor Andy Beerman and his opponent, Park City Councilor Nann Worel, as well as City Council candidates Tim Henney (incumbent), Tana Toly and Jeremy Rubell.
The forum began with a question about the changing climate: namely, what should be done to prepare for the impact of a shorter winter with less snowpack in coming decades. Toly said the city needs to focus on promoting “an entrepreneurial spirit” that will encourage Park City kids to stay in the community and begin their professional lives here.
“My family was here when Park City went from mining to skiing,” she said. “Park City is resilient and we can do it again.”
Rubell said Park City should shift its focus to attracting professional services and catering to the new workforce such as remote workers who want to live in Park City.
“We need to shift from attracting tourism, which I think happens naturally, to attracting professionals,” he said.
Henney spoke with the most urgency on the question, saying the risk to the area’s snowpack is so significant that it’s “probably the thing we should be spending 90% of our time talking about.” He said the community should do everything it can to protect the snow, not concede that it’s decline is inevitable.
“We are completely reliant on the snowpack,” he said. “If that goes away we’re not going to be worried about drivers to Park City because there won’t be any. We won’t even be able to sustain a community.”
Beerman said he is proud of Park City’s efforts on climate change so far but would like to see the community do even more.
“Treat every day like it’s a drought and do a better job of protecting our water,” he said. “If we take good care of the place, if it’s safe and the quality of life is good, people will continue to come here and spend money.”
Worel said she drove up to Guardsman Pass to see the changing leaves and was taken aback at how many other people were there.
“It seemed like most of the Wasatch Front and half the Wasatch Back,” she said.
Worel mentioned the Park City Chamber/Bureau and its efforts on sustainable tourism, and said Park City needs to ensure people don’t overcrowd open spaces and “love them to death.”
Further questions included typical Park City topics of concern like protecting open spaces, the future of the proposed arts and culture district, transparency at City Hall and nightly rentals in the community, particularly in Old Town.
On the topic of the arts and culture district, each of the candidates who currently serve in office — Beerman, Henney and Worel — said they want to stick to the original $40 million price tag for the project and sit down with anchor tenants Kimball Art Center and Sundance Institute to revisit the plans. Rubell and Toly each said they are more concerned with what else could go there or elsewhere, like workforce housing. Rubell said he would like to see more mixed-use developments, while Toly said she would like to see some of that money spent on revitalizing Prospector and The Yard.
On whether Park City does enough to be transparent with the community, Beerman and Henney argued it does, Rubell said the city’s engagement is “fantastic” but could be even better, and Worel and Toly argued more should be done to keep Parkites in the loop before major projects come before the council for a vote.
None of the candidates expressed any love for nightly rentals like Airbnb, which they said have ruined the communal fabric of neighborhoods like Old Town.
“It’s difficult to build a community when you have vacationers in a hot tub next door to a family trying to put their children to sleep,” Worel said.
Henney said Old Town used to be “dilapidated shacks” where workers could afford to live, but now the neighborhood has been gentrified and is “an investment, not a place to live.”
Beerman said he lives in the area, and while he used to have “no neighbors for five houses in either direction,” that is starting to change, but he’d like to do more.
“It’s critical to Old Town that we keep people living there,” he said.
Toly argued for subsidizing long-term rentals in Old Town by paying property owners to cover their lost income. She also said that should be the city’s focus before building new affordable housing, as drought and overgrowth become bigger concerns.
“Let’s use what we already have,” she said.
Rubell said the city should do more to foster and promote neighborhoods, which will make people want to be there, and to address challenges around traffic and walkability.
The candidates were also asked about Park City’s relationship with Summit County, and in that case the candidates did differ some.
Every candidate acknowledged that many of Park City’s issues are regional issues, and that a healthy working relationship between the city and county is critical.
Beerman said the relationship is functional but likened it to a sibling relationship with ups and downs. It’s in a rocky patch right now, he said, and needs continual work.
“But whenever someone else comes in and picks on us, we stand together,” he said.
Henney said he thinks the relationship is “very functional and productive” at the moment. He pointed to their combined efforts to counter the Hideout annexation and on fighting COVID-19.
Worel said the relationship needs to be strong, that she “needs to be able to pick up the phone and talk” with county leaders when an issue arises. She said she would like to see the councils meet jointly on a regular basis.
Rubell said he has the support of “most” of the Summit County councilors and said he would be able to help foster a stronger relationship right away.
Toly said so many issues are regional and the two entities need to be working closely together and keeping one other informed.
The forum closed as candidate forums often do, with the question, “What separates you from your opponents?”
Beerman said he brings experience in the job, established relationships around the region and across the state, the conviction to do big and bold things and said as someone who “came up through the ranks” he has lived the Park City experience.
Worel said her time as a Navy nurse, in the nonprofit sector and on the Park City Planning Commission give her a unique perspective.
Rubell touted his business background and said while he is new to government and public service he is “not new to solving problems.”
Henney said he brings 29 years of perspective, history and experience.
Toly, whose family has owned Red Banjo Pizza since 1962, said she is the only candidate with a business on Main Street, and thus has “boots on the ground every day.”
The candidates will meet at additional events in the coming days. The Park City Rotary Club will hold a mayoral forum on Oct. 12. The Park Record, Park City Chamber/Bureau, KPCW and Park City Community Foundation are partnering to hold candidate forums for the City Council and mayoral races on Oct. 11 at the Santy Auditorium. The mayoral event is scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m., while the City Council forum will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The Wasatch Back chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby plans to hold a virtual debate focused on climate solutions from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 14.
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