‘Good challenges’ seen amid difficult growth spurt in Park City
November 27, 2015
Anybody who was selected to lead critical Park City functions like those in the Planning Department and the Building Department would immediately step into a challenging situation.
The city is amid a post-recession boom as developments stretching from Quinn’s Junction to the upper reaches of Deer Valley are either under construction or under consideration. Some of the traffic snarls are as bad as people can recall in Park City. There are numerous projects that are planned that could add to the pressures.
Anne Laurent, the recently installed community development director at the Marsac Building, said the city has encountered issues that are not insurmountable.
"I would say this community has good challenges," she said, adding, "When I say good challenges, there are the resources to solve them."
In an interview shortly after her arrival in Park City, Laurent spoke in broad terms about Park City’s growth issues. Laurent described Park City as a place where there is demand for development as a result of it being a desirable community. But the demand will put stress on traffic, historic preservation and the desire for smart growth, she said, also mentioning special events and construction as she talked about challenges.
Laurent in October became the first person to hold the position of community development director at the Marsac Building in more than a decade. A former administration eliminated the position in 2003 as part of a move to streamline the municipal government. Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council reinstated the position during the budget talks earlier in 2015 in response to the uptick in development.
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Laurent was the community and economic development director in the combined city and county government of Los Alamos, N.M., at the time of her hiring. The Park City position oversees the Planning Department, the Building Department, engineering and City Hall’s transportation planners. It is one of the top posts in the municipal government’s hierarchy, leading an array of staffers with responsibilities as Park City plans for growth, approves projects and then regulates them as they are built.
Laurent was hired at a time when City Hall recorded consecutive $100 million-plus construction years, the first time since the recession, and leaders anticipate the spurt to continue. Major projects could materialize at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. The Bonanza Park district is seen as having significant development potential. The proposed Treasure project on a hillside overlooking Old Town on the slopes of PCMR is also looming. There is concern about growth in surrounding Summit County as well as in Wasatch County.
Although she referred to the dwindling number of large development sites within the city limits, Laurent said there is a "saturation point" in growth as transit systems and infrastructure are impacted.
"I’m looking for well thought out processes that result in outcomes that are positive, positive for the community," Laurent said.
Laurent has spent approximately 10 years in the public sector and worked in the private sector for about the same length of time. She is a licensed architect in New Mexico and intends to obtain a license in Utah. She is also a certified project management professional. Her professional background includes a planning position with the state of Arizona, public and private sector jobs in Michigan followed by the post in New Mexico.
As an architect, Laurent said, she designed projects like schools, government offices and senior living communities. Laurent said she would like bring her architectural background, which includes historic-preservation projects, to City Hall’s preservation efforts in Old Town. Laurent is the only architect in the municipal government’s ranks.
Laurent’s department is expected to spend considerable time on issues in Old Town and Bonanza Park.
She said there are many places that would like their core to resemble Old Town. She said the historic district works well.
"So many communities desire the downtown Park City has," Laurent said.
In Bonanza Park, meanwhile, Laurent said she envisions growth discussions will take place over time and delve into issues like building heights, transportation and the impacts on the district.
Prior to her hiring, City Hall, property owners in Bonanza Park and people who live in the district engaged in a difficult conversation that touched on issues like the height of buildings, traffic and the type of housing that would be built in the district.
City Hall pressed for what would have been a new sort of growth tool in Park City, known as form-based code. The supporters saw such a tool as something that could have led to a more vibrant Bonanza Park with residences, commercial spaces and workplaces. Critics seized on a range of topics before Park City officials scrapped the effort.
She said Bonanza Park is a place where an industrial look, what she describes as a "little more edgy design," could be a possibility. She acknowledged there will be challenges as growth blueprints for Bonanza Park are crafted, including the presence of a power substation in a central location and issues with contaminated soils.
"There’s very limited growth in Park City," she said about the development prospects in the community. "I recognize there’s concerns about concepts of density."