Park City event space would ‘unleash this monster’ on Old Town
A Park City panel on Wednesday failed to reach a decision on a highly controversial request to operate an event space along Main Street, opting to push back a vote until the middle of November as the developer expressed worries about the timeline and critics of the plans continued to seize on issues that have persisted for more than a year.
The Park City Planning Commission has struggled with the idea of an event space in a project at the corner of the Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. It is the former location of the Kimball Art Center. The Planning Commission in late 2016 voted in favor of the event space, prompting an appeal by opponents of the approval to the Park City Council. The elected officials remanded the application back to the lower panel in the spring of 2017, leaving the Planning Commission to restart its review of certain points.
The Planning Commission on Wednesday continued to press issues like the anticipated traffic and parking worries as well as the amount of noise an event space would generate. The developer, under the corporate umbrella of a firm called Columbus Pacific Properties, argues it has taken numerous steps to guard against the noise escaping into the neighborhood and says it has also adequately addressed traffic and parking. Some of the proposed details include time restrictions on music on an outdoor balcony, the installation of noise-limiting equipment that would be attached to the sound system and the creation of plans to manage traffic for events.
Members of the Planning Commission, though, requested more information. Douglas Thimm, a Planning Commissioner, inquired about whether traffic headed to or from the event space would impact the service levels of nearby streets. Laura Suesser, another Planning Commissioner, expressed a worry about the traffic’s effects on nearby intersections. She also wanted limits on vehicles that would drop people off at the event space.
The Planning Commission received lengthy testimony from opponents of the event space on Wednesday. Panelists listened to a range of concerns about the prospects of the noise drifting into the neighborhood and whether parking plans have been adequately crafted.
Speakers delved into topics that have been pored over through the more than two years of discussions about the event space, as the Planning Commission and the Park City Council have separately addressed the issue.
The opposition is centered on Old Town streets close to the location, and there were extensive comments on Wednesday from people who live nearby. The Planning Commission received nearly 100 minutes of testimony from critics of the plans to operate an event space.
Sanford Melville, a Park Avenue resident and one of the key opponents, told the Planning Commission he wants to protect the quality of life in the neighborhood. He said the event space, if approved, would “unleash this monster.”
“We’re all the collateral damage,” Melville said about people who live nearby.
Melville’s testimony was especially lengthy as he detailed issues with traffic and the operation of an event space. He said a study of traffic did not take into account the other tenants that would be located in the building and expressed concern about the impacts if more than one event were to be scheduled on the same day. Melville said the event space would be located in an “already congested” area of Park City.
Melville’s wife, Hope Melville, also testified, worrying about traffic jams and the idea of an event space operating “right next to residential areas.”
Another speaker, Old Town resident Ed Parigian, predicted lots of noise if the event space is approved. People are loud when they visit Park City, he said, telling the Planning Commission there would be high-pitched screaming and alcohol-fueled noise.
“This is all about greed and money,” Parigian said about the developer’s desire to operate an event space.
The long-running dispute is one of the most notable confrontations in years between the business interests of the Main Street core and the surrounding Old Town neighborhood. There has long been a tenuous relationship between Main Street and surrounding Old Town as businesses pursue their financial goals just steps from a neighborhood that desires peacefulness.
The Columbus Pacific Properties representative who has shepherded the project through the City Hall processes told the Planning Commission the developer’s side is disappointed. Tony Tyler, who has appeared before the Planning Commission repeatedly on behalf of the project, said operating an event space along Main Street is not unique, arguing restaurants resemble such a space on a year-round basis.
Tyler said the developer spent two years drafting a set of measures to address the impacts only to be told more work and studies are needed. He seemed especially displeased with the timeline as the Planning Commission delayed a decision with the busy ski season approaching.
“We’re now in October,” Tyler said to the panelists.
He told the Planning Commission the timeline “effectively renders the project defunct.” Tyler in an interview afterward explained the comment by saying there is “risk the space cannot operate.”
The dispute about the event space continues what has been an especially difficult conversation about one of Park City’s most visible locations. The Kimball Art Center once was located at the site. The not-for-profit organization sold the historic property to the developer after its own expansion plans were rejected based on City Hall’s strict Old Town design guidelines.
The developer is amid a major renovation of the historic building and expansion to the Main Street-Heber Avenue intersection. The project includes commercial spaces. The overall project does not depend on the decision regarding the event space, but the developer says it is important to the business plan.
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