Figure in controversial housing project seeks Planning Commission seat
September 27, 2013
A figure in a controversial Old Town housing proposal submitted his name as a candidate for appointment to the Park City Planning Commission, the influential City Hall panel that has started its discussions about the project and is expected to ultimately cast a crucial vote on the matter.
Jeff Werbelow acknowledges his role in a group called GreenPark Cohousing, LLC in his application for the Planning Commission appointment. The acknowledgement was made in response to a question about someone’s involvement with City Hall.
Werbelow’s role with Greenpark Cohousing does not prohibit him from serving on the Planning Commission. He would be expected to not participate in the Planning Commission discussions and vote about the project if he is appointed, though. Planning Commissioners must voluntarily withdrawal from discussions about properties or projects in which they have a stake. The situation only occasionally occurs, and it is rare for a Planning Commissioner to be directly involved in a project, as would be the case with Werbelow.
He is part of a small group of people tied to GreenPark Cohousing, an organization that is seeking the approval of what would be the first cohousing development in Park City. The overarching theory of cohousing holds that people who intend to live in a development have a significant role in its designs. Cohousing also promotes the idea of communal living.
The group that involves Werbelow earlier reached a $400,000 agreement to purchase City Hall property on the 1400 block of Park Avenue for the project. The deal has not yet been finalized.
There has been opposition from people with properties nearby. They have argued that the project is too densely packed for the site and it would bring down nearby property values, among other concerns. The Planning Commission does not appear close to being ready to cast a vote, meaning that if Werbelow is appointed he would almost certainly be a member of the panel during the height of the discussions and the vote.
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Werbelow, who lives in Park Meadows, said in his application he has lived in the Park City area since 1998 and has worked in the related fields of construction management, real estate development and zoning entitlement. He is trained as a lawyer, he said.
"Park City is truly unique due to its rich history. I have great interest and reverence in helping our town maintain its historic perspective and aesthetic," he said in the application.
Werbelow also said the City Hall process is "too slow — not enough customer service; there is an us vs them mentality."
Werbelow is one of 10 people seeking appointment. Three terms are expiring. Two of the incumbents — Charlie Wintzer and Brooke Hontz — are seeking reappointment. The other incumbent, Jack Thomas, is a candidate for mayor and did not submit an application.
The Park City Council is expected to conduct interviews with the Planning Commission field in October. It is not clear when the selections will be made or announced. The four-year terms begin in January.
The Planning Commission has long been seen as ranking second in importance of all of City Hall’s panels, trailing only the City Council. The Planning Commission casts the final vote on a range of development applications.
Highlights from the other applications include:
"The Planning Commission plays a key roll in the success of a town like Park City, whose reputation and popularity depend on being able to provide controlled, guided growth," Joyce wrote in the application.
Joyce said important issues in Park City include major projects such as Treasure, Bonanza Park and the expected eventual development of the Deer Valley Resort parking lots outside Snow Park Lodge. Joyce said Bonanza Park "could be a huge boost to Park City if it is built as a livable community."
Campbell said key issues for the Planning Commission include work force housing, oftentimes also referred to as affordable housing, transit-parking and sustainability, including land conservation.
"Our entire community should be involved in making sure there is a way for the people who work here to live here. I don’t want to see Park City become a haven for the ‘haves’ while the ‘have nots’ are forced to commute from ever further worker colonies," he said in the application.
Issues he sees as important include affordable housing, development on Main Street and Park City Mountain Resort. He said the lawsuit between PCMR and its landlord is a "position of major tension in the Park City community," indicating he has experience with leases at a mountain resort in Wyoming. That experience leads him "to believe that this issue will find resolution," he said.
He said issues of importance to the Planning Commission include completing the update of the General Plan, preserving historic structures and balancing full-time Parkites with the seasonal population.
"I would like to see a general plan that continues to recognize the unique neighborhoods within Park City and that capitalizes on each neighborhoods strengths, instead of creating narrow guidelines to try to make them all fit into," he said in the application.
Shabot said in the application he has experience in luxury hotels and the hospitality industry, having lived in Palm Beach, Fla., and Telluride, Colo. He said he was a member of a planning committee in Telluride and unsuccessfully sought elected office in the municipal government in Palm Beach.
Shabot said the "availability of low income housing" and protecting Park City’s history are important issues.
"Resort towns relies heavily on low income seasonal workers. Having sufficent affordable housing will ensure businesses have a work force needed to prosper. Any large scale new development should address this need when entering our community," he said.
He also said the expansion of the mountain resorts is an important issue, indicating the three local resorts "have expressed a desire to expand or interconnect the resorts."
"Ski resort expansion and interconnecting will make Park City the preimer ski destination in US, but must be done responsibly," he said.
He is an architect and says in the application he has "extensive knowledge and experience" with City Hall’s planning and zoning processes and documents.
Issues Swanson sees as important include the rewriting of the General Plan, areas where large redevelopments could occur "as they relate to transportation, energy, and water." He also said the historic district and the resort base are important in the context of transit and planning for growth.
He said he brought an application through the City Hall planning process when building a house in Old Town.
"I feel it is a fair and thorough process that helps preserve and maintain the historic aspects of old town," Vagstad said.
He said he was the president of a business before he moved to Park City and has "experience working with developers, contractors, employees and the Teamsters union."
Issues he sees as important include the way developments are planned along the Park City entryways, the development of Bonanza Park and the idea to build a gondola linking Main Street with Deer Valley Resort.
"I think that it is important to keep in mind what positive and negative affects the project would have on the upper main street area residents and businesses as well as parking and traffic concerns," Vagstad said about a gondola.
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