UPDATED: Park City Planning Commission approves Woodside Park housing development
The Park City Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a City Hall workforce or otherwise restricted housing development slated for the northern reaches of Old Town, siding with the municipal government in a disputed project that drew accolades from those who support the aggressive housing efforts but criticism from people concerned about the size of the proposal in the tightly packed neighborhood.
The panel cast three votes in favor of the second phase of Woodside Park housing. One of the votes dealt with an application for a master-planned development, which are usually larger and more complex projects, while another one centered on a conditional-use permit, which outlines the measures designed to address the potential impacts of a development. The third one was a recommendation to the Park City Council in favor of a plat amendment that is required before the development can proceed.
The vote on the plat amendment was unanimous while the other two were 5-1 with Planning Commissioner Laura Suesser dissenting in each case. Suesser indicated the proposal entails a development that she sees as too large for the location, saying the second phase of Woodside Park is “too dense.”
The Planning Commission cast the vote after lengthy discussion and a hearing that lasted approximately one hour as supporters and opponents outlined their positions. The Planning Commissioners who supported the project provided a variety of explanations, including what they see as the value of a project like the second phase of Woodside Park.
John Kenworthy, a Planning Commissioner, said there are “good causes” that outweigh the concerns about the project. He said the development will serve the Park City business community by providing a pool of employees. John Phillips, another member of the Planning Commission, said a project the size of the second phase of Woodside Park fits in the location. Planning Commissioner Sarah Hall suggested the possibility of a bus stop on Park Avenue outside the project, something Park City officials continue to discuss.
The project involves 58 units in a combination of townhouses and condominiums stretching through the 1300 blocks of Empire Avenue, Woodside Avenue and Norfolk Avenue. Park City officials intend to price most of the units at levels deemed to be affordable or attainable. Five of the units would be sold at market rates to raise monies for the construction of the overall project.
The second phase of Woodside Park will be an ambitious project for City Hall as well as one of the largest developments in Old Town in years. The 58-unit size spurred much of the concern from critics as they worried a project of that breadth will create impacts in Old Town. City Hall, though, sees the project as crucial as officials continue to pursue a goal of adding 800 units of housing priced at affordable or attainable levels by the end of 2026.
The hearing on Wednesday did not draw a full house to the City Council chambers, but it was nonetheless perhaps the most noteworthy held by the Planning Commission since the talks about the polarizing Treasure development proposal. Project supporters noted the benefits of a development like the second phase of Woodside Park. Some project critics essentially said they support the ideals behind City Hall’s housing program but argued the project as designed is not workable in the location.
Megan McKenna, a Park City High School teacher who lives in Prospector and who supports the project, told the Planning Commission she has become “disillusioned” as she attempts to find housing. She said she unsuccessfully sought a place in another City Hall project and plans to apply for a unit in the first phase of Woodside Park.
“I’m starting to lose hope,” McKenna said, adding she would like to live in a place that does not require a commute. “I want to be part of this community.”
Critics countered with a range of arguments against the project a week after an attorney representing a nearby homeowner submitted a letter detailing concerns and urging City Hall to meet the same standards that would be required of private-sector developers.
Doug Lee, whose family owns a nearby house on Empire Avenue and who retained the attorney, told the Planning Commission the project does not provide enough open space and said he wants the anticipated project-related traffic studied in a comprehensive fashion. He said there are “too many near misses” on Empire Avenue as he spoke about traffic. Lee described himself as supporting City Hall’s overall housing efforts, but he also said it is a paradox and “hypocritical” for City Hall to spend $64 million to acquire the Treasure land in a conservation deal and then pursue a development the size of the second phase of Woodside Park.
City Hall is pursuing a broad housing agenda as it continues toward the 800-unit goal. Leaders have long said workforce or otherwise restricted housing promotes socioeconomic diversity and reduces commuter traffic. The housing efforts are critical as rank-and-file workers and others are priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market, they say.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.