Park City’s idea for newfangled planning tool just ‘didn’t pencil’ | ParkRecord.com

Park City’s idea for newfangled planning tool just ‘didn’t pencil’

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

the fall of 2014, more than four years after Park City officials started talks about creating a new planning and zoning tool for the Bonanza Park district, one of the crucial landowners there had begun to question the efforts at City Hall.

Mark J. Fischer, the key figure in Bonanza Park, that October testified during a lengthy hearing about the tool, known as a form-based code. He was just one of the people who had concerns at the time. Fischer at that meeting told the Park City Planning Commission he was interested at one time in a new code, but he was no longer certain about that desire. He said clarity is needed and that the potential of Bonanza Park needed to be unlocked "one way or another."

City Hall recently said it has effectively ended its efforts to craft a form-based code, which had been seen at one point as something that would be important as Bonanza Park is redeveloped. A form-based code, supporters said during the discussions, could have led to a more vibrant district of residences, commercial spaces and workplaces. The discussions started in the middle of 2010.

The decision, though, came as opposition continued to a form-based code. Critics were worried that a form-based code could lead to taller buildings, more expensive real estate and other negatives in what some see as an up-and-coming district. Officials say the municipal government will continue to progress on some of the ideals of a form-based code even though the move toward creating the code itself has been scrapped.

In an interview, Fischer said a form-based code did not fit well in Bonanza Park. He said such a code would have restricted too tightly the height of buildings in the district, it did not ideally address parking or road widths and there were concerns about the architecture that would be needed to comply with the rules.

"Perhaps form-based code did not work because it was too big of a change from what Park City is used to," Fischer said, acknowledging it was an "interesting discussion" at City Hall about a form-based code.

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Fischer also said a form-based code would have been costlier for developers. He has previously said a form-based code would increase development costs, perhaps by up to 33 percent. Fischer has previously said an increase in the price of development would make it difficult to build work force housing, which was one of the goals of a form-based code.

"At the end, I agreed it was not economically feasible," Fischer said, adding, "Form-based code didn’t pencil."

Fischer said he intends to restart talks with City Hall about Bonanza Park later in 2015. Fischer owns or controls approximately 14 acres of land in the district, including The Yard, which is a centrally located property along Kearns Boulevard, and the Rail Central building along Bonanza Drive. He has desired an overall vision for growth in Bonanza Park. Any upcoming discussions about the Fischer-controlled parcels would be done under the guise of City Hall’s existing development rules.

"The vise got squeezed in so many directions," Fischer said about the impact a form-based code would have had.

Another critic of a form-based code in Bonanza Park supported City Hall’s decision to end the efforts. Clay Stuard, a Park Meadows resident and former member of the Park City Planning Commission, was one of the most intense opponents of a form-based code, speaking in blunt terms about the topic on several occasions.

He said in an interview a form-based code would have substantially increased the amount of development in Bonanza Park, adding it would have been inappropriate to create a new code prior to crafting an overall transportation plan in the city. Stuard, meanwhile, said a form-based code would have been "too rigid" in the building designs it would allow and it would have led to buildings up to five stories tall just off the curb on Bonanza Drive.

"I’m pleased that the City Council and staff listened to the public input last year," Stuard said in an interview.