In Bonanza Park, a pivotal landowner is left wondering
The crowd seemed a tad restless by the time the Park City Planning Commission last week opened a hearing about the future of the Bonanza Park district.
It was 10 p.m. and the crowd had sat through what was already a lengthy meeting that addressed other topics. Eleven people testified about what is known as a form-based code, set of planning ideals that City Hall wants to adopt to govern development in Bonanza Park, a swath of Park City roughly bounded by Park Avenue, Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive. The development and redevelopment prospects in Bonanza Park are seen as significant given its relatively flat topography and the large parcels of land situated there.
Mark J. Fischer, one of the crucial property owners in Bonanza Park, stepped up to testify during the Planning Commission meeting, telling the panel he was interested in a new code for Bonanza Park at one time. He was no longer certain about that desire, though, he said to the Planning Commission. Clarity is needed, he said. The potential of the Bonanza park district needs to be unlocked "one way or another," Fischer told the Planning Commission.
Of the speakers at the meeting, Fischer was perhaps the most prominent given his ambitions to remake Bonanza Park into a sought-after address in Park City. There are other prominent landowners in the district, but it has been Fischer who has been the most aggressive in pursuing a grander Bonanza Park that would attract boutiques, restaurants and, critically, people who want to live there. City Hall’s efforts in Bonanza Park are not based on Fischer’s vision for the district, but it was Fischer’s ideas that appeared to spur the municipal government to look closely at Bonanza Park’s future.
In an interview on Monday, Fischer said he remains interested in City Hall continuing its work in Bonanza Park, but he would like officials to finalize their ideals for the district. He said he is "struggling with the slow pace" of the discussions about Bonanza Park.
"Has the city lost me? Not completely, but I’m getting older, just like everyone else," Fischer also said, adding, "They’ve not lost me, but it’s time to get this done in the next year or else we should just stick with the code we have."
City Hall says a form-based code — a set of planning, zoning and design ideals — would be a better tool for the Bonanza Park district as it grows. Officials say it would create a mix of uses, public spaces and housing that would be available to people in a range of income brackets. Critics, though, worry about the size of the buildings and whether the efforts will be successful since there is a patchwork of property owners in the district.
Fischer owns or controls approximately 14 acres of land in Bonanza Park, including the centrally located Yard property. Other holdings include the Rail Central building, the Emporium and a strip of buildings on Bonanza Drive close to the Kearns Boulevard intersection.
Fischer said a form-based code would increase development costs, perhaps by up to 33 percent. That, he said, would make it difficult for a developer to put up work force housing, one of the goals of City Hall in Bonanza Park. Developers want a "fair profit" on their projects, he said.
"Is the code too expensive for this neighborhood," Fischer said.
Fischer argues for three points that he sees as directly related to the ideals outlined in the proposed form-based code or closely related to the code. He wants City Hall to invest in infrastructure in Bonanza Park, saying officials should commit funding to building a new road network and extend utility lines. Other infrastructure or infrastructure planning he desires from City Hall includes a building to screen from view the Rocky Mountain Power substation and examining the idea of putting up a parking garage. He also prefers the Recycling Center be relocated, freeing up its current site for redevelopment and allowing the Bonanza Park road network to be enhanced.
He estimates there could be upward of $20 million in City Hall support needed over a 10-year span in Bonanza Park. Main Street has received significant support from City Hall, he said as he argued for assistance in Bonanza Park.
Fischer, meanwhile, wants City Hall to allow for a flexible road network in Bonanza Park. He said the municipal government should also alter its rules regulating contaminated soils left over from the silver mining era. He wants landowners to be allowed to remove soils that are not contaminated. That would allow developers to build underground garages at more reasonable costs, he said.
"Decisions about form-based code will greatly impact the level of redevelopment in the Bonanza Park district," Fischer said.
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