Park City, after years of work, ends push for newfangled planning tool
July 3, 2015
City Hall has effectively ended an effort to craft a planning and zoning tool that had been seen at one time by officials as being critical to the redevelopment of the Bonanza Park district.
Park City leaders spent upward of five years discussing a tool known as form-based code, creating division among people who closely follow zoning issues in the city. Some saw a form-based code as something that would provide City Hall better design options as Bonanza Park developed. Critics, though, contended that a form-based code would not deliver the type of district envisioned. A form-based code was never molded to the point it could have been presented for a vote. It would have been one of City Hall’s notable planning and zoning documents, though.
Matt Dias, the assistant Park City manager, delivered a five-page memo to Mayor Jack Thomas and the Park City Council in late June outlining the reasoning behind the decision. The memo mentions opinions from the community and the loss of staffers in the Planning Department as some of the reasons. There seemed to be growing opposition to a form-based code last fall and only limited progress since then. City Hall’s planning director, Thomas Eddington, meanwhile, departed the municipal government in the spring. Eddington had been one of the chief backers of a form-based code.
"Given a variety of factors, such as the recent community feedback and the loss of planning staff leading this effort, staff is working to accomplish many of the original goals of both the Bonanza Park Area Plan and the General Plan, using a variety of tools other than Form-Based Code," Dias says in the memo.
Bonanza Park is a swath of Park City roughly bounded by Bonanza Drive, Park Avenue and Kearns Boulevard. Some see the district as having the potential of becoming a vibrant destination full of shops, restaurants and residences. The district nowadays offers a smattering of that sort of development alongside more utilitarian uses. The form-based code was meant to move the ideas forward with new tools. The ideas of one of the major landowners in Bonanza Park, led by Mark J. Fischer, appeared to spur much of the talk about the district.
The Dias memo indicates City Hall will continue to progress on some of the ideals of form-based code. Some of them listed in the memo include creating a neighborhood with a mix of uses where people live and work, ensuring what the memo describes as an "authentic, affordable neighborhood" and offering alternatives for transportation. It also says City Hall wants to increase connections, make Bonanza Park an "employment hub" and redevelop in a sustainable fashion.
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The memo outlines efforts planned at City Hall regarding transportation and housing. Some of the transportation initiatives include a broad look at Bonanza Park and the lower Park Avenue corridor.
"For example, staff believes the Bonanza Park/Lower Park Ave. study, in particular, may fundamentally help support or negate the justification for different levels of public investment. Staff recommends waiting until these studies are completed and appropriately shared and reviewed with City Council and the community prior to further determinations in Bonanza Park," the memo says.
Dias addresses housing as well, saying there is a historic opportunity. He outlines potential projects like one anticipated on City Hall-owned land on the 1400 block of Park Avenue, which is outside the traditional borders of Bonanza Park, and development opportunities on other municipally controlled parcels.
"Park City is on the cusp of what may be remembered as our most significant effort in our history to diversify our housing stock (affordable/attainable). Given the existing entitlements in Bonanza Park and therefore the considerable amount of change that can (be) predicted over the coming decades, staff believes there are excellent opportunities to achieve some of Council’s Housing Goals in this area, in particular," the memo says.
The municipal government last fall published a brief description of the ideals of a form-based code. The description defined form-based code as "zoning based on building form and replaces use-based zoning." It said a form-based code is "an incredible alternative to conventional zoning." It also said a form-based code offered "broad market potential" and "vibrant character."
In an interview, Dias said officials at City Hall conducted a listening tour that showed continued community concerns with a form-based code. There was "consternation," he said. Dias said the decision to end the form-based code efforts was based on several months of discussions at City Hall that included input from elected and appointed officials as well as other stakeholders.
"It made sense to put it on the shelf for now," he said, adding, "Form-based code is one tool in the tool chest . . . Never say never."
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