Park City candidates politely cover range of issues |

Park City candidates politely cover range of issues

The six people competing in the Park City Council election appeared together on Friday in the first candidate event of the campaign season, covering numerous topics during a polite forum that lacked genuine political fireworks.

It was symbolic of an election cycle that has thus far not provided the drama of past City Hall contests. Even though the event was held just a little more than a month before Election Day, the candidates did not seem to display the urgency of some of the people who have sought office in the past as they headed into the final weeks of their campaigns.

The Friday event, held at the Santy Auditorium in the Park City Library and Education Center, drew a crowd that did not appear to halfway fill the 500-seat room. But it was likely one of the larger crowds the candidates will face before Election Day. The room briefly lost electricity during the forum, but the event proceeded without a notable interruption.

Three business-related organizations – the Park City Board of Realtors, the Park City Chamber/Bureau and the Historic Park City Alliance, which represents Main Street – organized the event. Some of the questioning was oriented toward business topics.

The candidates addressed housing issues, which are already priorities at City Hall but a topic that the election field continues to press. The discussion about housing spurred perhaps the most notable exchange between the candidates, particularly two challengers.

Dan Portwood, a candidate, said it is important to attract high-paying jobs to Park City and also said perhaps City Hall could consider working with the owners of units available to lower incomes to improve them. Becca Gerber, another challenger, responded to Portwood, saying a lot of those units are in pretty good shape already. Portwood countered that Gerber should go visit "those places," mentioning, as an example, the Parkside Apartments. He said they are "OK, but they are old." Gerber, though, responded that the units there are clean and maintained.

The other candidates also spoke about housing without exchanging comments with a competitor. Nann Worel, a member of the Park City Planning Commission, mentioned that there is a sense of community within the Snow Creek Cottages work force housing development. She said Parkites will need to decide if they are willing to make trade-offs to develop housing, such as allowing taller buildings.

Rory Murphy, a developer, noted that he built work force housing in his projects, saying City Hall needs to ensure developers build the work force units required of them.

"The city does need to be more diligent about enforcement," Murphy said.

Andy Beerman, an incumbent City Councilor, said Park City is losing young people and described that City Hall is building housing for the middle class.

"We’re losing our sense of community," Beerman said.

Candidate Hope Melville indicated she wanted to explore options in the existing housing stock rather than developing new units.

The slate of City Council hopefuls also addressed a question about Park City’s busy calendar of special events, discussing their opinion about adding a hypothetical large event to the city calendar. Some wanted more information before deciding, but Murphy, Beerman and Melville seemed especially cautious. Portwood, though, said he is a "big fan" of inviting people to Park City through events.

There are at least two more candidate forums scheduled prior to Election Day. The first is set for Oct. 13 in front of the Park City Rotary Club. It is a private event. A public forum is scheduled on Oct. 26 at Park Meadows Country Club. It was not immediately clear what organization is hosting the Oct. 26 event.

Some of the other highlights of the Santy Auditorium event included:

  • Beerman saying that improved transit and childcare, as well as better wages, are parts of the housing issue.
  • Gerber explaining that City Hall could perhaps acquire buildings on Main Street and then stabilize rents.
  • Melville indicating that she is wary of the Mountain Accord efforts to craft an overarching plan for the Wasatch Mountain region, saying the work is based in Salt Lake.
  • Murphy contending that Wasatch County is concerned about work force housing required of Park City developers being situated there instead of inside Park City.
  • Portwood calling Park City a "five-star town" that has had a great influence on his life.
  • Worel saying she would like to explore whether City Hall is able to address the period a business is open during the licensing process.

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