Park City rift continues as ‘Kimball Party Palace’ denounced
June 14, 2018
A Park City panel on Wednesday evening opted to delay making a decision about a developer's desire to operate an event space at the former location of the Kimball Art Center, indefinitely postponing a vote on an issue that has highlighted the tense relationship between Main Street and the surrounding Old Town neighborhood.
It was not clear prior to the meeting whether the Park City Planning Commission would render a decision on Wednesday. City Hall staffers drafted a report in anticipation of the meeting recommending the permit needed to operate the event space be denied, but it seemed likely a decision would be delayed as the discussion continued on Wednesday.
A previous Planning Commission roster approved a permit for the event space, prompting the opposition to appeal the decision to the Park City Council based on concerns about impacts on the neighborhood like noise, parking and traffic. The elected officials, though, remanded the issue to the lower panel to reconsider similar topics. The event space would hold approximately up to 480 people at a time with 141 attendees allowed on a deck at any one time.
A developer is continuing to renovate the building that once housed the art center, including a major expansion at the corner of Main Street and Heber Avenue. The project includes retail square footage, but the proposal for the event space prompted the appeal by several people who live nearby. They and others are worried the noise and traffic from the event space will spill onto residential streets like Park Avenue and Woodside Avenue. The continuing construction does not depend on the outcome of the decision about the event space, but the developer's side has said the space is desired to ensure the financial success of the project.
The developer, under the corporate umbrella of a firm called Columbus Pacific Properties, on Wednesday argued that it has taken a series of steps to protect the neighborhood. Tony Tyler, a Columbus Pacific Properties representative who is leading the efforts, and attorney Wade Budge told the Planning Commission the event space fits at the location. Budge argued City Hall's zoning rules at the site contemplate an event space. He also said the intensity of the event space would be lower than that of the Kimball Art Center when it was located there. He added that the Kimball Art Center attracted traffic as well, and traffic and transportation plans would be devised for larger events that book the space.
Budge further argued there are similar happenings on Main Street already. They are held "regularly up and down Main Street." He also said an event manager would be hired to regulate the number of people on the deck.
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But the meeting drew a contingent of people who live in surrounding Old Town who oppose the event space. They continued to press issues like noise and traffic, two topics that have for decades been a rift between Main Street and Old Town residents. The people who live nearby say the event space would draw traffic and parked cars to roads that are already tightly packed. They also claim noise from Main Street wafts into the neighborhood with a concern that the event space will worsen the situation.
The Planning Commission received approximately 75 minutes of testimony from critics of the event space. The speakers covered issues similar to those that have been broached throughout the talks about the event space. Old Town appeared to be heavily represented in the crowd.
Sanford Melville, one of the people who appealed the earlier Planning Commission approval, said a study of the noise levels was "purely theoretical" and "superficial, at best." He said not enough data was collected. Melville also worried about the possibility of diesel-fueled buses idling as they unloaded passengers headed to the event space.
"This is just the wrong place," Melville said.
Another critic, Andy Byrne, worried event organizers would dismantle the setups in the overnight hours, said the location is in a busy part of Park City and expressed concerns about a loading zone. He labeled the event space the "Kimball Party Palace."
Niels Vernegaard, an opponent of the event space, told the Planning Commission weddings that would be held at the event space would attract loud fraternity and sorority members.
"They're not going to be quiet," he said.
Tom Fey, another critic, labeled the study of noise levels "baloney."
"Noise travels a long, long way," Fey said.
The Planning Commission did not provide extensive comments and will be expected to hold a detailed talk when the issue returns to the panel. Planning Commissioner Douglas Thimm indicated he wants the developers to create a plan for parking with the possibility of employing an off-grounds location. Mark Sletten, another Planning Commissioner, described a concern about the noise volumes.
The Planning Commission indicated it wants a third party to evaluate a study of noise volumes and requested the traffic situation be studied, including the loading and unloading of passengers. The panel also said it wants to visit the location. The Columbus Pacific Properties side did not extensively respond to the Planning Commission comments, but Tyler questioned the need for a traffic study since, according to him, the event space would be a less intensive use of the property than others.