Park City’s new planning director: ‘Congestion is obviously an issue’
Planning director arrives in city
Gretchen Milliken spotted one of Park City’s challenges quickly.
The newly installed planning director at City Hall has lived in the Park City area since August after relocating from Louisville, Kentucky, and, like many others in the community, sees the amount of traffic as a challenge.
“Congestion is obviously an issue,” Milliken said in an interview shortly after she started in one of the municipal government’s highest-profile posts.
Milliken will have broad influence in growth matters as the planning director. She manages the day-to-day activity of the department and will be heavily involved in long-range strategies as well. Planning and zoning issues have long been some of the most controversial in Park City, and the person in the planning director role is responsible for weighing a landowner’s rights against the wishes of the community as they are outlined in the development rules.
Milliken’s early recognition of congestion as a key issue in the community is likely unsurprising to Parkites, who have for years lodged complaints about the topic. Traffic is typically one of the issues that becomes especially challenging when projects are put before the Park City Planning Commission.
Milliken said Park City could become a leader in alternative forms of transit and sustainable development as part of the overall efforts to cut traffic. She said transit can be integrated into large developments and described a transit network in conjunction with bus lanes as being a viable option. Bicycle lanes and pedestrian connections are also traffic-fighting measures she mentioned.
She said aerial connections, such as via a gondola network, could be further studied as part of an overall solution to traffic. Milliken also mentioned rail connections as something that could someday be researched. She acknowledged the price tags attached to options like gondolas and trains, saying political decisions would need to be made before systems like those are pursued for Park City.
Milliken, 53, succeeded the late Bruce Erickson as the planning director. She arrived at the municipal government at the beginning of February after City Hall conducted a national recruitment.
A licensed architect, Milliken most recently served as the director of advanced planning and sustainability for Louisville Metro Government in Kentucky and for 20 years worked for architectural and urban-planning firms in Stockholm, Sweden. She is married to Aldy Milliken, the executive director of the Kimball Art Center.
The planning director addressed in general terms the related issues of the denseness of a development and the height of buildings. A dense development with taller buildings is sometimes a preferred alternative since that sort of project oftentimes leads to the protection of other ground controlled by a landowner as open space. City Hall has supported that sort of concept for years. She pointed to the goals outlined in an overarching document that guides growth in Park City called the General Plan and a community-crafted vision. She said a dense project promotes City Hall’s desires for sustainable development and a transit-friendly approach.
“Cluster development, creating density, that’s what allows for a car-free lifestyle,” she said, also noting the importance of transit connections to nodes of development.
Milliken, meanwhile, said the rules that regulate development in Old Town could be clearer than the current set. She said she would like to address the design guidelines in the historic district in the next one to two years in an effort to update and clarify them. She wants the guidelines to be “user friendly” for property owners, developers and architects.
“I see lots of opportunity. Every city has its issues and its challenges,” she said in summarizing her early perspective on Park City.
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The Park City Police Department last week received at least two reports involving cases of different natures at construction locations. In one of the cases, the police were told 1,000 construction workers had left vehicles on the street.