Park City leaders essentially close book on library field housing |

Park City leaders essentially close book on library field housing

The Park City Council last Thursday indicated it did not want to pursue a work force or otherwise affordable housing project on the field outside the Park City Library and Education Center.

The elected officials made the comments during a meeting that addressed a patchwork of City Hall-controlled properties along the lower Park Avenue corridor. The field outside the library, which is a popular place for people to play catch, hang out and bring their dogs to run, garnered widespread attention, and opposition, in recent weeks after a City Hall-organized design studio crafted ideas for housing at the location. There has not been a formal proposal, though.

Mayor Jack Thomas said in an interview the majority of the City Councilors said they did not want the field developed with housing. He said Parkites have told the elected officials they are opposed to a project at the site. Thomas said public input has been "unanimously against putting housing on the library field."

"I think we heard the community loud and clear," Thomas said.

He said putting housing at the location "is not credible."

The elected officials on Thursday received testimony about the field outside the Library and Education Center. Thomas said the speakers represented a broad cross-section of the community, including people who have lived close to the facility for years and newcomers to the area. He said he appreciated the turnout.

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The mayor and City Council also touched on the idea of permanently protecting the field outside the Library and Education Center from development. That would likely be accomplished through a tool known as a conservation easement, which strips the development potential off a piece of ground, or a similar mechanism. The elected officials did not make a decision about permanently protecting the land. Those discussions would be held later.

The discussions about the field were an unexpected result of the design studio, which brought architects, planners and designers to Park City to delve into the possibilities of the City Hall properties on or close to lower Park Avenue. The design studio drafted sketches showing housing scenarios for parts of the field. There did not seem to be much public support for the idea at any point, and an opposition movement mobilized as the idea was publicized.

Park City leaders have made housing a priority for City Hall, pointing to a resort-driven real estate market that has priced many people out of the city. The leaders say creating additional housing opportunities for the work force and others has numerous benefits, including ensuring socioeconomic diversity in Park City and cutting commuter traffic. Officials are considering whether housing projects could be pursued on other pieces of land in Old Town under the control of the municipal government as well.

On the day before the City Council meeting, another City Hall panel spoke about the field outside the Library and Education Center. The Recreation Advisory Board briefly addressed the future of the field during an unscheduled discussion.

The members of the board did not delve into details. Some of them instead indicated that there was concern in the community about the prospects of a City Hall housing development on part of the field.

"There’s concern and word on the street," said Becca Gerber, a Recreation Advisory Board member who is campaigning for a spot on the Park City Council in the November election.

Gerber said people see the field as an "unstructured dog space." Ken Fisher, the recreation manager for City Hall, responded that the field should not be seen that way. Gerber also said at the meeting the prospects of a development at the site has become a "hot topic" in Park City.