Old Town: ‘so much character!" or ‘stop the patronizing head nod . . .’
A group of people who live in Old Town, have interests in the neighborhood or closely watch City Hall policies in the historic district offered numerous opinions Wednesday night about building designs.
An event organized by City Hall drew more than 70 people to the Park City Council chambers at the Marsac Building to discuss ideas to revise the municipal government’s tight design guidelines in Old Town. The guidelines have long been controversial. Some property owners, architects and house designers argue that the guidelines are restrictive while preservation enthusiasts say the guidelines protect the historic fabric of Old Town.
The open house on Wednesday was part of what is expected to be a lengthy process as officials rewrite the guidelines. There will be public meetings and hearings later. The attendance was substantially more than the 50 or so that organizers anticipated.
The event drew a mixed crowd of longtime Parkites, developers and other interested parties. Two members of the Park City Council — Cindy Matsumoto and Tim Henney — were in attendance. There were also members of the Park City Planning Commission and City Hall’s Old Town panel, known as the Historic Preservation Board.
People at the open house chatted with City Hall staffers and other officials involved in the talks about the guidelines. They also left numerous messages on large sheets of paper that were posted around the City Council chambers asking questions about Old Town.
"We’re all over the board," said Anya Grahn, the historic preservation planner at City Hall. "It’s what we hear every week at planning."
She said some of the people claimed the guidelines and City Hall process are too strict while others told her they are not strict enough.
The messages left on the sheets of paper illustrated the widely diverse views of people at the open house. Many centered on the guidelines, but other messages addressed unrelated issues in Old Town, including speeding drivers. The messages were left anonymously. The open house organizers asked specific questions on the sheets, such as "What do you like most about the Historic District?" and "What do you dislike about the Historic District?"
Some of the messages included:
Grahn said the Planning Department will review opinions gathered on Wednesday and start more discussions with the Historic Preservation Board. She said the talks with the panel could be held late in the spring after an earlier round of discussions late in 2014. It could be a year from late in the spring before guidelines could be adopted, she said.
The Historic Preservation Board will eventually make a recommendation to the City Council about the guidelines. The City Council is not bound by the lower panel’s recommendation. Hearings would be held by the Historic Preservation Board and the City Council prior to the votes.
One of the people at the open house, a Sun Peak resident who has been active in Old Town design issues, said in an interview he supports ideas for the redone guidelines. Jim Tedford, who founded a group called Preserve Historic Main Street, said he wants City Hall to address Main Street as the talks continue.
"I want to see stronger protection for Main Street," Tedford said, adding that he wants the Historic Preservation Board granted wider duties prior to a project being approved.
Tedford was a critic of the proposed designs for an expansion of the Kimball Art Center, which were rejected by City Hall in 2014. Through the Kimball Art Center discussions it "became obvious what some of the loopholes were," such as matching the look of historic windows, he said.
"Get rid of the gray . . . Gray is a bad thing. You have to have black and white," he said.
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City Hall in December posted strong sales-tax numbers, powering past projections and nearly equaling the figure from the same month in the previous year, as Park City continued to beat expectations amid the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.