Park City leaders say Sundance complaints ‘heard loud and clear’
City Councilors address festival issues as important meeting nears
March 3, 2017
Another scene was added on Tuesday evening to the concerns about the Sundance Film Festival's impact on Old Town.
Two members of the Park City Council, appearing at a Coffee with Council event at the Park City Library, heard about the difficulties the festival creates in the tightly packed neighborhood. City Councilors Andy Beerman and Cindy Matsumoto attended the Coffee with Council on Wednesday as part of a rotation of Park City's elected officials.
Rebekka Monson, who lives on Woodside Avenue and was raised in the neighborhood, told the two City Councilors the festival is out of control. She said there are traffic and parking issues in Old Town during Sundance. She said she has a "total dissatisfaction" with Sundance and, eventually, families will leave Old Town.
The two City Councilors engaged Monson in a discussion with approximately 20 people gathered for the event listening. Others who were there also seemed to be interested in Sundance. Matsumoto acknowledged officials understand the impact of Sundance on Old Town. Beerman made a similar statement.
"We have heard loud and clear . . . that the impacts are becoming overwhelming," Beerman said, telling the crowd there are "way too many" vehicles in Park City during Sundance.
Sundance, held in January, has for years involved traffic, parking and noise complaints, but the issues in 2017 seemed to be more pronounced than those during many previous years. A large snowstorm during the especially busy opening days of Sundance further complicated the situation this year. There were also concerns that a street closure along lower Main Street during Sundance may have contributed to some of the issues.
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Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council on Thursday plan to discuss Sundance with festival officials. It is not clear how detailed a discussion will be held at the Thursday meeting, but it could provide a preview of talks that are expected to occur as festival organizers prepare for the 2018 event.
Some of the upcoming talk, it appears, could focus on the possibility of introducing some sort of access-pass system that would restrict traffic in Old Town during Sundance. City Hall has long used a similar system during the Park City Kimball Arts Festival in the summer. Matsumoto and Beerman both mentioned the possibility of restricting vehicle access. Neither provided details, though.
An audience member asked the two City Councilors about the prospects of shifting the film festival to another time of the year, perhaps the summer, when the impacts would not be expected to be as pronounced. Beerman explained that Sundance desires its January position on the global circuit of film festivals and has expressed it does not intend to shift to another time of year. Beerman also highlighted that Sundance agreed to move dates slightly during years when the festival would conflict with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, which is typically a busy three-day weekend for the ski industry.
The discussion on Tuesday provided evidence that the concerns about Sundance this year will extend longer into the year than is usual. It could also signal that rank-and-file Parkites may be more interested in the talks between City Hall and Sundance this year. The municipal government and Sundance recap the festival annually and oftentimes make operational tweaks in the months before January. An access-pass system, even a limited one, would be one of the most significant changes to City Hall's overall Sundance plans in years.
Sundance was not represented at the Coffee with Council event. High-ranking Sundance staffers are anticipated to attend the City Council meeting on Thursday. Beerman said Sundance has been a "good partner" with City Hall.
Some of the other topics brought up at the Coffee with Council included:
- Beerman discussing City Hall's parking and transportation systems, saying a satellite parking lot and bus lanes are important to the overall plans. He said dynamic prices for parking could be introduced in the Main Street core in the next year that set the cost higher during busier times.
- Matsumoto also addressing transportation, telling the audience traffic along S.R. 248 will increase as a result of growth in Summit County and Wasatch County. She said officials want to intercept drivers via a satellite parking lot and dedicate a lane for buses.
- Beerman saying City Hall is considering creating a position that would serve as a housing guru. He did not provide details, but housing is one of the municipal government's priorities. City Hall holds ambitious plans to develop housing along the lower Park Avenue corridor, as an example.
- Matsumoto recalling the parking and transportation plan that was designed for the 2002 Winter Olympics, which relied on large satellite parking lots, vastly increased bus service and a Games-long traffic closure on Main Street. She said Park City events have grown to the point similar measures could be considered.