Park City election hinges on issues like housing, community vibe | ParkRecord.com

Park City election hinges on issues like housing, community vibe

Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

There is just about one month left in the Park City Council campaign, thus far a political season that has lacked the fireworks of years past.

But the candidates are scheduled to appear together at upcoming election forums, giving voters the opportunity to hear from the group and creating the possibility of the candidates engaging one another.

The subdued campaign season is unfolding even as City Hall faces crucial issues that have drawn attention from Parkites since the most recent municipal election, held in 2013. Housing and the related issues of traffic and transportation have been especially notable in recent months as City Hall has pledged to address them with more urgency than in the past.

There are six people seeking a spot on the City Council. Three seats are on the ballot. Andy Beerman, a first-term member of the City Council, is the only incumbent seeking re-election. The other candidates are Becca Gerber, Hope Melville, Rory Murphy, Dan Portwood and Nann Worel.

Over the next month, some of the issues the City Council candidates are expected to address include:

  • traffic and transportation, two related topics that City Hall has dealt with through the decades of growth since the 1980s. Many Parkites worry that traffic has overwhelmed Park City as the community otherwise enjoyed a strong exit from the recession. A terrible traffic jam in December that stretched through the city crystallized the concerns. The City Council candidates will need to address both traffic and transportation, and both of the issues pose their own difficulties. The candidates could outline ideas to convince more people to take public transportation, meant to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, and they may propose ideas to better manage the roads themselves. Some of the roads involved, though, are under state control, further complicating the situation. The candidates will likely be pressed on details, such as the possibilities for newfangled transit systems or modifications to the road network to address traffic. It seems that some of them could discuss the prospects of new bus lanes, people movers of some sort or other programs or projects.
  • housing, an issue that has bedeviled City Hall leaders for years. Park City has long been seen as the most expensive housing market in the state, and the real estate market, overall, has been hot since the worst of the recession. But there are many Parkites who are worried that the market has priced out rank-and-file workers, reducing socioeconomic diversity in the city and creating issues like an uptick in commuter traffic. Housing issues have seemed to draw special interest in recent months as City Hall has more aggressively addressed the issue. The candidates seem to broadly support the housing efforts, but they could be made to address specifics in the time before Election Day. Voters, as an example, could force answers from the candidates on a highly contentious idea to build a housing project on the field outside the Park City Library and Education Center. The candidates could also address other pieces of land City Hall has mentioned as possible locations for housing as well as the different sorts of possible projects work force housing and senior housing, as examples.
  • growth and development, taken together, critical issues to Park City’s future decades after the first boom era and even as population increases inside the city have leveled off. Park City leaders over the past year have delved into the broad topic of growth as well as the details of the future of development inside the city. There is concern that growth outside the Park City limits will have impacts on the city itself, notably traffic. The candidates could discuss ideas regarding regional relationships with jurisdictions like Summit County and Wasatch County, two places where much of the growth in the area is expected. The candidates will also address growth and development in Park City. The future of Bonanza Park, seen as a district with great development potential, remains unclear and the candidates could offer their vision for a part of the city that remains underutilized. The candidates, meanwhile, could be queried about the proposed Treasure development on a hillside overlooking Old Town even though there has been little progress recently and the City Council is not expected to have a significant role when the discussions resume. Other growth and development topics of significance include the Park City Mountain Resort base area and parking lots, Old Town building designs and the future of the lower Park Avenue corridor.
  • the economy, a crucial part of a political platform that encompasses a range of issues. Park City’s economy has performed well since the depths of the recession as the crucial resort industry and sectors like construction have posted impressive numbers. The candidates, though, will eventually be pressed on the economy, probably for ideas for further expansion as well as for proposals to diversity the business makeup of Park City. There are some concerns that the Park City economy, which relies heavily on industries linked at some level to skiing, could be vulnerable in the event of an economic downturn that impacts travel habits or, on a long-term basis, a changing climate. The candidates could outline economic development proposals meant to diversify the economy more aggressively than City Hall’s current efforts. There has been talk of improvements to the online network in Park City, something that could draw a more diverse group of businesses to the city, as an example. In recent months, meanwhile, a burgeoning film industry has appeared with the opening of the Park Film Studios at Quinn’s Junction. Although the facility could have a role in the diversification of the economy, the candidates could also discuss the impacts of location shooting in public places around Park City.
  • the community vibe, something that cannot be quantified or easily described but an issue that could be a deciding factor as voters consider the candidates. There seems to be an underlying concern among Parkites about the future of the community. Issues like housing availability, growth and traffic play a factor, but it is difficult to understand whether there are even deeper issues. There has been widespread speculation about the impact of Vail Resorts’ presence in Park City and the firm’s planned linking of Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Resort to create the largest mountain resort in the United States. The combined resort holds promise for businesses tied to the tourism industry, but some are worried about the traffic impacts, the potential for increased residential and commercial rents and the community’s overall capability to adequately handle a marked increase in winter tourism. There has been a movement in the community described in vague terms as aiming to keep Park City Park City, a nod to a desire to ensure the community’s long-held values remain intact even amid the growth and changes. The candidates at some point before Election Day will almost certainly be asked to address the community vibe in some fashion even if it is difficult to define.