‘Library field forever:’ Park City considers future of greenspace
September 20, 2016
Park City leaders say they want the field outside the Park City Library to remain undeveloped, but they are not yet prepared to choose a mechanism to do so, prompting what could be another six months of discussions about the popular greenspace.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council at a recent meeting indicated they do not intend to build on the field. They questioned, though, the means that could be used to ensure it remains as it is. An activist group called Save the Library Field has asked that the field, which has long been a popular place for people to play catch, hang out and bring their dogs for off-leash runs, be preserved in perpetuity through some sort of conservation tool.
The elected officials, though, are discussing which tool should be used and the potential impact of such a decision years from now. If the land is set aside through a strict tool, there is concern that options for the use of the field that are not known now could be removed from consideration by future leaders. It seems that the current slate of elected officials support some sort of protection, though.
The City Council opted to request that City Hall's open space panel hold more discussions about the field. The Citizens Open Space Advisory Committee earlier recommended that City Hall draft a third party to hold what is known as a preservation easement on the land. The municipal government would retain ownership of the field under such an easement. The third party would enforce restrictions on the land that would prohibit development.
City Hall has entered into similar agreements, known as conservation easements, involving other lands that officials want protected from development. A City Hall report drafted in anticipation of the recent meeting indicated that a preservation easement rather than a conservation easement is under consideration since the library field is not considered pristine or habitat that is critical, as is the case when a conservation easement is sought.
The City Council wants the open-space committee to readdress the library field by the middle of March. One of the City Councilors, Tim Henney, said there is not urgency since the elected officials have indicated they want the field preserved but want to choose the right option.
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The library field attracts a diverse crowd of students, library patrons and, notably, people who live in surrounding Old Town. The City Council has made part of the field an off-leash area. An Old Town resident, Ed Parigian, and others launched the Save the Library Field group in mid-2015 in response to concepts to build some sort of restricted housing on part of the greenspace. The idea was generated during a City Hall-organized design studio that was focused on the lower Park Avenue corridor.
Officials quickly distanced themselves from the idea to build housing on the library field, saying they desired the field be left undeveloped. The concepts, which included rough sketches showing housing, though, stirred people to organize against the possibility of the field being developed and prompted calls for further protection for the land.
Members of the open space committee appeared at the recent City Council meeting, addressing a range of topics, as the elected officials considered options. Steve Joyce, who is the Park City Planning Commission's representative on the panel, said the idea of a third party holding an easement on the land. He also mentioned that development restrictions on the land nowadays could be altered by a future set of Park City officials.
"Zoning doesn't do it," Joyce said, noting that the library building itself was expanded toward the field during a recent renovation.
Parigian also spoke to the elected officials at the recent meeting, saying the library field is a special place that should be respected in the same manner as people respect the mountains. He said there is citywide support for ensuring the library field is left undeveloped.
"Library field forever," Parigian said, addressing the elected officials in the melody of the Beatles' song "Strawberry Fields Forever."