Park City development watchdog denounces Provo firm’s plans for PCMR project
A Provo firm’s plans to build a major project atop what are now the Park City Mountain Resort parking lots have drawn the scrutiny of a longtime development watchdog, a signal that the concept could encounter additional resistance as the talks unfold in coming months.
Rich Wyman at a recent meeting of the Park City Planning Commission provided some of the most notable testimony to date regarding the PEG Companies concepts for the PCMR lots. Wyman, a Prospector resident, has long been among the community’s best-known development watchdogs. His work dates to the mid-1990s, when he was a key figure in the resistance to the project that was ultimately built as Empire Pass. He was one of the founders of a group called Citizens Allied for Responsible Growth, widely known at the time by the acronym CARG. The group was heavily involved in the talks regarding what became Empire Pass. For years afterward, it played a role as other projects were debated in Park City and the Snyderville Basin.
Wyman in the years since the Empire Pass discussions has had less prominent roles in other development debates, has advocated on behalf of workforce or otherwise affordable housing and was a leader in the community’s movement against the war in Iraq.
Wyman’s appearance before the Planning Commission occurred at an early point in the talks about the PCMR lots and at a time when the public input has appeared to be weighted toward people who live or have properties in the immediate vicinity of the project. Wyman delivered testimony remotely with the Planning Commission continuing to meet in that fashion as the community combats the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Wyman acknowledged he had only recently started to research the details of the project. He told the Planning Commission the development could be the final one of its breadth built in Park City, a reference to the dwindling number of properties inside the city limits that could hold a project of its size.
“This project, I think everybody here knows it and I think that the community will soon become more aware, is the next most important project and perhaps the last of its kind where we have something this big, monumental, impactful,” Wyman said.
He said a development on the PCMR lots “needs to be the absolute best that it can be, and what I see so far is far from that.” The designs that he has studied online show “a complete lack of imagination, a lack of creativity.”
Wyman, in an especially pointed contention, asserted PEG Companies might not be the best firm to develop the lots. He mentioned the idea that another Winter Olympics could be awarded to the state. PCMR is a competition venue in the plans for a second Games.
“It doesn’t look like a world-class ski town to me. And with Park City trying to get the Olympics again, I think Park City should be looking at creating something that is absolutely world class. And I’m not sure PEG is the company that can even do it, to be quite honest,” Wyman said, adding, “I would suggest that PEG perhaps brings in some people with experience on the world stage.”
He questioned whether PEG Companies has the necessary experience in developing in mountain resorts like Park City.
“It looks to me like they haven’t, this is their first time. So, I have serious reservations about PEG and their ability to make what Park City really needs there,” he said.
Wyman also addressed some of the details of the development proposal, saying that “the designs must fit with the authentic town and not create some Disneyesque tourist attraction.”
Wyman argued the community plazas outlined in the proposal would not be welcoming, predicted the project would lead to traffic issues, said housing for the workforce should be built on the grounds as a way to reduce traffic and told the Planning Commission the parking associated with the project should be built underground.
“I think the designs are seriously flawed. They don’t fit anywhere within Park City, especially not in Old Town or the base of the resort. The buildings are massive, bulky, unattractive,” he said, acknowledging that there is a chance Parkites could eventually support a project that is a benefit to the community.
It is unclear whether the comments from Wyman will set a tone for the coming months of talks. Others have provided either verbal or written input to the Planning Commission criticizing the plans as well, but Wyman’s comments were some of the most blunt in opposition.
It appears the Planning Commission will spend months, at a minimum, reviewing the development proposal, giving time for supporters or opponents to rally. A vote will likely not be cast before at least November. The Planning Commission has not yet made an important procedural decision regarding the sort of review that will be conducted. That decision is expected shortly. Once the procedural matter is finalized, the Planning Commission will move to topics like the designs, traffic and other issues large developments must address.
PEG Companies in 2019 reached an agreement with PCMR owner Vail Resorts to acquire the parking lots. The Colorado-based owner has shifted away from development, opting to sell land to third parties to pursue projects rather than pursuing them on its own. The transaction between Vail Resorts and PEG Companies is not expected to be completed until after the Planning Commission talks.
A former owner of PCMR in the 1990s secured an overall development approval for the base area that included the rights that remain attached to the parking lots that are involved in the PEG Companies proposal. Marriott’s MountainSide and the Legacy Lodge were developed as part of the overall approval. The land and the development rights went to Vail Resorts when the firm acquired PCMR in 2014 in a deal that ended a bitterly contested lawsuit centered on control of the acreage underlying most of the terrain on the Park City side of PCMR.
While the governor touted state initiatives, members of the public questioned what Cox is doing to help with issues such as the labor shortage and affordable housing, open space, water and education.
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