Park City’s incoming planning chief married to art center leader, complicating talks about cultural district
There will be discussions about whether Gretchen Milliken’s recusal is warranted
As Gretchen Milliken arrives at the Marsac Building shortly as the next planning director, a major development proposal that is expected to be closely watched will be looming.
City Hall itself wants to build an arts and culture district stretching inward from the intersection of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive. It is seen as a project that will increase cultural tourism and be a step in diversifying the Park City economy from one that is heavily reliant on the ski industry and related sectors.
One of the organizations that is envisioned as an anchor of the district is the Kimball Art Center. The not-for-profit Kimball Art Center is helmed by Aldy Milliken, who is the organization’s executive director and the husband of the incoming planning director. The relationship will likely further complicate, at least at the outset, an especially ambitious municipal project.
The Planning Department that Milliken will lead within weeks will hold a crucial role in the processing of the application for the district. The department drafts reports for the city’s Planning Commission, reviews studies and other materials submitted as part of an application and helps craft the language supporting the Planning Commission’s eventual decision.
Milliken, who is an architect in addition to an urban planner, is scheduled to start as the planning director on Feb. 1. It seems likely the arts and culture district will be put to the Planning Commission early in her tenure, possibly as early as late in the spring.
The Park City Council is continuing its own talks about the vision for the project, with the expectation that a development proposal will involve anchor buildings for the Kimball Art Center and the Utah offices of the Sundance Institute, as well as artist studios, commercial square footage, workforce or otherwise affordable housing and a transit node. The timing of the Planning Commission talks depends on the upcoming decisions by the elected officials.
“The nature of the relationship very likely will result in Gretchen needing to recuse herself on occasion when warranted,” said David Everitt, a deputy Park City manager whose duties include community development, describing that the municipal government will act with caution in the matter.
Everitt said City Hall attorneys would also be involved in any discussions regarding a recusal. He said a recusal would be anticipated if the planning director is eventually required to have a regulatory role in the Kimball Art Center aspect of the district.
If that is the case, he said, Milliken’s role could be advisory in nature and focused on broader planning and urban design principles. She could also have duties in the review of the housing portion of the development, which is not tied directly to the Kimball Art Center, Everitt said.
Milliken on Monday acknowledged she would recuse herself from the Planning Commission discussions about the project when there is determined to be a conflict of interest. She said the couple overlapped professionally without issue while in Louisville, Kentucky, where she worked for the municipal government and her husband was a museum director.
She also noted the overall proposal for the district is large and includes elements that are unrelated to the Kimball Art Center. She anticipates consulting with the Park City manager and the Park City attorney. Milliken said she is “very conscious” of the situation.
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The Park City Council will soon be short one member and Parkites will have an opportunity to take the seat with no campaign required. Officials on Tuesday are scheduled to hold an event designed for people who are considering submitting their name as a candidate for the appointment.