Park City official responds to accusations about City Hall housing project
Park City officials are accustomed to receiving questions as they consider growth and development decisions, the overriding issue in the community for decades.
But as City Hall continues an aggressive housing program that has made the municipal government itself one of Park City’s top developers, there have been rumblings of concerns centered on the idea that projects do not fit well with the surroundings. It is a similar sort of concern private-sector developers have long encountered as they press ahead with projects within existing neighborhoods or on the edge of the city.
City Hall recently began the discussions with the Park City Planning Commission about an especially ambitious housing plan — the second phase of the Woodside Park development on the northern reaches of Old Town. It is a tightly packed neighborhood between the Main Street core and the area of Park City Mountain Resort, and City Hall has acquired a patchwork of properties with plans to develop workforce or otherwise restricted housing.
The blueprints before the Planning Commission involve 58 units — a mix of townhouses and condominiums — mostly ones that will be priced at levels considered to be affordable or attainable with market rates attached to six of the units in an effort to raise funds for the overall project. The project is designed to stretch across the 1300 blocks of Empire Avenue, Woodside Avenue and Norfolk Avenue.
Tim Henney, a member of the Park City Council, at a recent meeting indicated misinformation has spread about the development proposal. The meeting was not centered on the Woodside Park project and the elected officials were not scheduled to discuss the matter. Henney in brief comments said he wanted Park City leaders in some fashion to address what he sees as the misinformation.
Henney in an interview afterward said he has received letters containing inaccurate information about the project from people who live in the area of the second phase of Woodside Park or have property there. He said he’s received three or four letters over the past month or so. Henney said the input has questioned whether City Hall is processing the development application in the same way it would if a private sector landowner was pursuing a similar proposal.
“There’s an accusation being made that the city is treating itself differently,” Henney said as he described the input.
He said a claim has been raised regarding “special consideration” being made since the municipal government filed the application.
“I don’t think it has merit at all,” Henney said about the claims, adding, “Because we don’t do that. We don’t make exceptions for city projects.”
Henney argued the opponents are attempting to create a “false, inaccurate narrative.”
“It complies with all the zone codes and ordinances. … There were no exceptions asked for,” he said.
Henney also said the project will work well in the neighborhood. He described the neighborhood immediately surrounding Woodside Park as “dense as hell” with three-story buildings. The municipal project “fits perfectly,” he said.
“On either side of the property, that’s what exists,” Henney said.
The City Councilor made the comments in the weeks after the Planning Commission started its discussions about the second phase of Woodside Park. The panel received a little more than 10 minutes of split testimony during a March meeting about the project. One of the speakers at the meeting told the Planning Commission the City Hall project is too dense for the land.
The Planning Commission at later meetings is expected to delve into details like traffic, the look of the buildings and the project layout. It seems likely the testimony at the meeting in March offered a preview of later hearings.
The second phase of Woodside Park is envisioned as a crucial project as City Hall continues to work on a goal of adding 800 units of housing deemed to be affordable or attainable by the end of 2026. Public projects like Woodside Park and those the private sector are obligated to build will be counted toward the goal.
Park City leaders say workforce or otherwise restricted housing provides wide-ranging community benefits, such as reduced commuter traffic and socioeconomic diversity. Critics often question project details rather than the overarching ideals of the municipal housing program.
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The Park City Police Department last week received at least two reports involving cases of different natures at construction locations. In one of the cases, the police were told 1,000 construction workers had left vehicles on the street.