Bonanza Park’s tallest buildings quickly spur division

The Bonanza Park partnership on Wednesday appeared at a Park City Planning Commission meeting, outlining the plans to remake the district and drawing a crowd that was split in its opinions of the ambitious ideas for what has largely been a utilitarian section of the city over the decades.

The Planning Commission did not cast a preliminary vote on the project, but it was an important meeting nonetheless as the panel outlined initial observations. The meeting also allowed an early round of testimony from the public. The comments from the Planning Commission and the public testimony likely offered a preview of the upcoming discussions about Bonanza Park, which are tentatively scheduled to resume on June 22.

The Bonanza Park partnership controls a patchwork of properties along Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard and wants the Planning Commission to eventually approve approximately 335,000 square feet of development, a mix of residences, commercial properties and offices. Many of the buildings now standing would be demolished and then the properties redeveloped.

The public testimony on Wednesday focused on a range of issues as some of the speakers described the benefits of a redone Bonanza Park while others decried the ideas for the district. It is likely topics like the proposed height of the buildings and the overall amount of development the partnership seeks, both broached by speakers at the meeting, will be of note throughout the Planning Commission’s discussions. The tallest buildings would climb to five stories, according to a City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the meeting.

The Planning Commission took approximately 25 minutes of testimony from seven people. The speakers reside in different neighborhoods and work in a range of industries.

One of the speakers, Prospector resident Steve Onysko, told the panel he is concerned about the Bonanza Park buildings blocking views of the mountains. He labeled the proposed buildings "monstrosities." He said they will be "huge in height" and are inappropriate for the location, adding that he is concerned about air pollution, lights, noise and traffic. He questioned whether employees at a hotel proposed in Bonanza Park would earn enough to afford to live in Park City.

Ruth Gezelius, who lives in Old Town, said the plans may underestimate the amount of parking spaces needed for delivery trucks and other commercial vehicles as well as residential parking and storage areas. She also mentioned the building heights.

"Take very seriously the issue of height exceptions," she said.

Clay Stuard, a former member of the Planning Commission, was also critical, citing the building heights.

"It’s a nonstarter and should be rejected outright," Stuard said about the current iteration of the development.

But others were interested in the Bonanza Park ideas. Bill Coleman, long a prominent figure in the Park City real estate industry, told the Planning Commission housing in Bonanza Park is "imperative." He said the need for housing could lead to taller buildings.

"Higher density should come in the form of height," Coleman said.

Another speaker, former Park City Councilor Alex Butwinski, said the plans for Bonanza Park are a "great start."

The Planning Commission is expected to eventually cast a vote on an early step in the process known as a pre-application. The panel as it readies a vote will weigh the proposal against City Hall’s General Plan, a broad document that guides growth in Park City. If the project advances at that point, a series of more detailed meetings will be held prior to a vote on the proposal itself.

Planning Commissioners offered a range of comments as they described support for some aspects of the proposal and concerns with others. It appeared from the comments that the proposed heights will undergo an especially rigorous Planning Commission review.

Melissa Band, a Planning Commission member, said a hotel is not needed in Bonanza Park since occupancy rates in Park City are lower than other resort communities and worried about allowing taller buildings without securing benefits like restricted housing. Laura Suesser, another Planning Commissioner, also questioned the hotel proposal and wondered whether additional office space is needed.

Planning Commissioner John Phillips told the Bonanza Park partnership the height of the buildings will be a critical part of the discussions. He acknowledged he is not "fearful of height," but taller buildings are less visible if they are set back inside a project.

Adam Strachan, also a member of the Planning Commissioner, meanwhile, said the proposal is "radically different" that other projects in Park City. He labeled the Bonanza Park architecture modern and contemporary. Strachan also mentioned building heights in his comments and said more information is needed regarding the proposed location of restricted work force or otherwise affordable housing within Bonanza Park.

The Bonanza Park partnership, consisting of Mark J. Fischer and John Paul Dejoria, amassed the properties over time and envisions remaking the district into a hip neighborhood of residences, stores and restaurants.

In an interview after the meeting, Fischer said the Bonanza Park team will consider a redesign that moves the tallest buildings into the interior of the project as a result of the comments on Wednesday. He said the meeting provided "open and honest feedback" and the proposal is at a stage that continues to allow a redesign.

"We intend to attempt to enhance our plan to meet the goals of the city and the public," Fischer said.

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