Park City planning panel poised for roster shake-up
January 31, 2018
The Park City Planning Commission, the influential panel that makes many of the community's decisions about growth and development, could undergo an extraordinary roster change in 2018 as two rounds of appointments are anticipated by the middle of the fall.
It is highly unusual for terms for each of the seven seats on the Planning Commission to expire in the same year, as is the case in 2018. The terms are normally staggered to guard against the possibility of mass turnover as they expire. The 2018 expirations of each of the terms is a result of the long-running discussions about the Treasure development proposal.
The Park City Council extended the terms of five of the seven current members of the Planning Commission to ensure continuity during the high-stakes talks about Treasure. The Planning Commission spent significant time addressing the approximately 1 million-square-foot Treasure, proposed for a hillside overlooking Old Town along the route of the Town Lift.
City Hall last week reached an agreement with the Treasure partnership to acquire the land in a conservation deal pending voter approval of a ballot measure to fund most of the $64 million purchase. If the ballot measure fails, the partnership would be expected to re-engage the Planning Commission about the project itself. That would be months away, and the elected officials want to return to traditional Planning Commission terms before then.
The terms of two members of the Planning Commission — Adam Strachan and Laura Suesser — would have expired in July of 2016 had they not been extended. Three other Planning Commission terms — those of John Phillips, Preston Campbell and Steve Joyce — would have ended in July of 2017. Joyce left the Planning Commission to be sworn in as a City Councilor in January. Those five Planning Commission slots have been advertised.
Planning Commissioners Melissa Band and Douglas Thimm hold terms that expire in September, and those seats will be expected to be advertised later in the year.
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The Planning Commission holds much of the power in development matters. The panel in many cases can approve or reject applications without the matter then being put to the City Council. It also has important duties in crafting City Hall's General Plan, which guides growth in Park City, and the municipal government's detailed development rules, outlined in a document known as the Land Management Code.
The Planning Commission has also traditionally been a springboard to elected office in Park City. Two of the current five members of the City Council — Joyce and Nann Worel — are former Planning Commissioners. The recently retired mayor, Jack Thomas, was also a member of the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission in the next term is expected to address a series of high-profile issues. Some of the likely development debates include the redevelopment of the Park City Mountain Resort base area and the development of an arts district in Bonanza Park. Bruce Erickson, the planning director at City Hall, said other prominent projects expected to be put to the Planning Commission include municipal housing developments in Woodside Park and projects in Empire Pass.
The possibility of Treasure returning to the Planning Commission is also notable. If a ballot measure fails, the project would be heard by a panel roster that could potentially have no members with experience with Treasure. It could lead to a scenario with the Treasure partnership pressing for a vote on a condensed timeline as Planning Commissioners attempt to learn the intricacies of a large, complex development proposal with a history stretching to the 1980s.
Two of the incumbents, Suesser and Phillips, are seeking reappointment while the other two, Strachan and Campbell, are not applying for another term. The City Council is anticipated to make the five appointments in March. There could be interest among the elected officials to keep the two incumbents who want to be reappointed on the panel for continuity purposes.
Members of the Planning Commission must be Park City residents. Terms are for four years. Meetings are held twice a month, on the second and fourth Wednesdays. They start at 5:30 p.m. and sometimes extend well past 9 p.m. Planning Commissioners are compensated at a rate of $100 per meeting and receive a stipend for a tablet-style device to access reports. The application deadline is Friday at 5 p.m. More information and applications are available on the City Hall website, http://www.parkcity.org, or at the Planning Department at the Marsac Building.