Park City event space: Sounds like a continuing controversy
Additional discussions held about noise, traffic at Old Town site
September 28, 2017
The firm redeveloping the former location of the Kimball Art Center on Wednesday received another round of criticism as it continues to press for a City Hall permit to operate an event space, the latest round of opposition in a dispute that pits the project team against people who live on nearby streets and are worried about issues like noise and traffic.
The Park City Planning Commission returned to its discussions about the developer's wishes for an event space for the first time since December. The panel at that time approved a permit for the event space, but opponents appealed the approval to the Park City Council. The elected officials in March remanded the issue back to the Planning Commission for more discussions. The Planning Commission on Wednesday was not scheduled to cast a vote, but the meeting again highlighted the difficulties of development in a commercial district just steps from residences.
A developer under the umbrella of a California firm called Columbus Pacific Properties has already started the redo of the site, but another permit is needed to operate the event space. Columbus Pacific Properties says the event space is needed to ensure the financial success of the overall project, which also includes commercial square footage. People who oppose the event space contend it would disrupt the neighborhood.
The meeting on Wednesday spotlighted the arguments of both sides as the development team and people who live nearby addressed the Planning Commission. Panel members seemed hesitant as they spoke about the proposal, but it was not clear what sort of vote they will ultimately cast. The Planning Commission in December unanimously approved the event space, which would be designed to hold 480 people. It would be among the largest venues of its kind in Park City.
The development team's comments to the Planning Commission focused on topics like the restaurants and nightclubs close to the location of the project. The developer's side argued there is already intense activity, including outdoor dining, nearby. Craig Elliott, an architect working on the project, noted the property was used for events while it was under the ownership of the Kimball Art Center. He also told the Planning Commission people driving to event spaces typically have more people in the car than those driving to other sorts of businesses, something that reduces traffic and the number of parked cars.
Tony Tyler, a partner in the project, told the Planning Commission the developer intends to drop a request that would allow a tent for special events. Tents would be requested through a separate municipal process, he said. Tyler, meanwhile, said the outside of the event space would primarily be used in the summer and is seen as an extension of the interior space. He said he anticipates weddings will be popular functions in the event space. The developer has proposed a series of steps meant to ensure events do not disrupt the neighborhood, including redoing the designs of the interior of the space and using equipment that monitors and limits noise levels.
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But people who live or have property nearby remain displeased with the prospects of an event space opening so close to the neighborhood. Six people provided nearly 30 minutes of input even though a formal hearing was not scheduled. Each of the speakers criticized the proposal.
Sanford Melville, a Park Avenue resident who was one of the people who appealed the earlier approval to the City Council, told the Planning Commission the 480-person occupancy is worrisome. He said an event space would be noisy and the sounds would not be contained. Melville also said plans to manage the noise rely on the neighborhood to file complaints.
"This is not some little deck on Main Street. This is a big-time facility," he said.
Other speakers broached issues like the impact on the quality of life in Old Town, the possibility that an event space would make it more difficult for emergency vehicles to pass, whether there is enough parking for an event space and what some see as a traffic bottleneck at the location.
"That corner is a mess now," Old Town resident Andy Byrne said, referring to the intersection of Park Avenue and Heber Avenue.
Byrne also said he does not want people headed to the event space to take up parking spots since, according to Byrne, that "shouldn't be our problem."
Members of the Planning Commission addressed topics similar to those mentioned during the hearing. Planning Commissioner Adam Strachan said the panel will need proof the developer is able to address the concerns about noise. Steve Joyce, another Planning Commissioner, spoke about what he sees as a "jammed area" if the event space is approved. He said the noise will become louder as attendance at the events climbs. Planning Commissioner John Phillips expressed a concern about potential impacts on bus routes with increased traffic headed to and from the event space. Tyler countered that the crowds will not arrive and leave at the same time, meaning the traffic will not be as difficult as some may envision.
The Planning Commission is anticipated to return to the discussions on Oct. 25. A formal hearing is expected at that meeting.
In an interview after the meeting on Wednesday, Tyler said the developer should not be asked to address the broad issue of traffic in the neighborhood. He said "mitigate does not mean eliminate" and the existing restaurants, nightclubs and event spaces already impact the neighborhood.
"I don't think it's fair to have a project solve all the traffic problems in Old Town," he said, adding, "It's unfair for the public and the commission to ask us to eliminate the impacts."