Park City project tagged with death metal, debauchery worries
Messages to City Hall illustrate deep concerns about event space
April 7, 2017
On March 28, as Park City leaders were just days away from making what was expected to be a closely watched decision about the future of a historic Old Town building, Kevin Gallagher fired off an email to City Hall expressing displeasure with a developer's idea to operate event space in the property that once housed the Kimball Art Center.
Gallagher, with an Empire Avenue address, sent the message to a general address for members of the Park City Council. He questioned why leaders would approve event space that, critics claim, will disrupt the neighborhood. Gallagher wanted the City Councilors to ensure the city remains a dignified community.
He was one of numerous opponents in Old Town who either testified against the event space or sent letters in opposition. City Hall has released a cache of messages that illustrates the deep-rooted concerns about the event space. Gallagher's March 28 email was one of the messages released by the municipal government.
"Please protect the civil and considerate many from the irreverent and obnoxious few. We, the civil, respectfully object to being bound to the perpetual background static of a garage roof street party, complete with DJ's and 'death metal' and who knows what else," the message says. "And for what? Tell me again, what does Park City gain from this? Is there some principled cultural, historical, or altruistic benefit that we should all be aware of?"
The one-page message continued, claiming that Park City people should not be forced to withstand garage roof parties that stretch past 10 p.m. and the "nonsensical noise pollution, drinking, and debauchery."
"If we wanted a garage roof party we would all be in Reno or Oakland," the Gallagher message says.
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The messages cover many of the topics that speakers at a City Council meeting in late March broached in front of the elected officials. The messages were also similar to the concerns mentioned in recent months as the Park City Planning Commission approved a permit for the event space and, shortly afterward, opponents appealed the approval to the City Council. The elected officials at the meeting in late March remanded the issue back to the lower panel with instructions to reconsider topics like traffic, parking and methods that could be used to reduce the amount of noise that would escape from the event space into the surrounding neighborhood.
The dispute about the event space is a high-profile example of the tensions between Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood. There are numerous residences just steps from the shopping, dining and entertainment strip, and people who live on streets like Park Avenue, Woodside Avenue and Norfolk Avenue have long expressed concerns about loud music, partying and drunkenness creeping from Main Street toward the residential streets. Park City leaders attempt to weigh the competing interests of Main Street and the surrounding neighborhood with mixed results.
The developer, under the corporate umbrella of a California firm called Columbus Pacific Properties, has started an ambitious renovation of the property. Another permit is needed, though, to operate the event space. The Planning Commission approval allows an event space accommodating up to 480 people. The panel restricted the use of outdoor speakers to the hours of 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and put restrictions on the design of outdoor tents that would be used on a rooftop terrace during events.
The messages dwelled on the range of issues considered by the Planning Commission and then the City Council on appeal. They also stressed the idea of Old Town as a neighborhood, something that is not always a critical topic during discussions about Main Street, and an argument that the event space benefits a corporate interest over the wishes of a neighborhood.
"Allowing this . . . to stand will be one more nail in the coffin of Old Town as a place where people want to live, not just visit. Before long Old Town will be a 'Disneyland' attraction without actual residents," a March 24 message from Bob Gurss, identified as a Park City resident, said.
Another critic, Norfolk Avenue resident Linda McReynolds, sent a message on March 27 addressing the noise. McReynolds said sounds are "funneled up the hillsides to our homes."
"We Old Town residents hear every event, every band, every loudspeaker, every fireworks display, every police siren, every fire engine, every clang as barriers are put up, every microphone, every drunken argument, every thing!" she wrote. "It's bad enough (listening) to the beep beep of the delivery trucks at 5 am. We are regular people with children and jobs. Please don't force us to accommodate the traffic and late night events of this development. We have a right to a decent quality of life too."
It is likely City Hall will continue to receive messages like the cache that has been released as the discussions continue about the event space. The opponents are expected to mobilize again as the Planning Commission revisits the issue with direction from the elected officials. The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to restart its talks about the event space in May or June, according to the Park City Planning Department.
There was a smattering of support for the event space in the messages as well. The messages in opposition greatly outnumbered those in support, roughly tracking the testimony at meetings. The supporters cited topics like the prospects of the event space generating business along Main Street.
"This new event space is simply replacing the old space. The impact on traffic will be minimal, as shuttles and taxi services would be the logical way for access. The noise impact of an elegant event space would be sporadic and is a lot better than a bar operating every day and night. Let's face it, if you choose to live in Old Town you must accept the fact that it's a vibrant exciting small town," Stephen Neff, identified as a Main Street property owner since 1973, said in a March 30 message.