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Parkites learn from Idaho

About 75 government leaders, businesspeople and regular Parkites recently returned from a five-day outing to Idaho, saying each of the two cities they visited provides examples for Park City.

The trip, known as the City Tour, made stops in the state capital of Boise and in McCall, which is a lakeside resort community that is also situated close to the ski slopes. Boise is much larger than Park City, but McCall is a smaller community that does not boast the bustling ski industry that Park City enjoys.

Some of the people on the trip talk about Boise’s downtown and its paved trails. They also mention the difficulties McCall officials have as they strive to provide housing for the work force.

"Park City is between Boise and McCall," says Adam Strachan, a Park City Planning Commissioner who attended the trip, adding there are attributes of each city he liked. "They’re sort of two polar opposites of the spectrum."

Strachan says Boise boasts a downtown corridor pedestrians and bicyclists frequent and a riverside path that attracts crowds. Boise, he says, is easy to navigate for pedestrians, a goal of Park City leaders.

He acknowledges Boise’s population, about 600,000 in the metropolitan area, according to the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau, is much larger than that of the Park City area and Boise officials face some different issues than those that are prevalent in Park City.

Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson, meanwhile, calls Boise a "nice city" with a redeveloped downtown and lots of public art displays. She says Boise serves as a good model in some respects as Park City leaders prepare for the coming decades.

Simpson, like Strachan, talks about Boise’s pedestrian ways, saying the city provides wide, tree-lined sidewalks. Boise officials, she says, have made pedestrian issues a priority.

"Everybody was out on the street . . . walking, biking, live music," Simpson says.

City Hall plans similar trips annually, with the organizers long saying Park City leaders learn lots from the other cities, some of which can then be put in use in Park City. The organizers in recent years have put together itineraries that include a city larger than Park City and one that is a resort community.

Some past trips have visited the mountain resorts of Colorado, the Lake Tahoe region in California and Nevada, Montana cities and locales in New Mexico. City Hall officials and others say they have returned to Park City from the trips with ideas about the Main Street district, open space, trails, the arts and recreation programs, among other subjects.

The trip-goers this year included government officials, business leaders, nonprofit executives and members of the Leadership Park City training class. Some of the notables who attended included Mayor Dana Williams, most of the Park City Council and Summit County Commissioner Sally Elliott.

The trip costs about $650 per person, with taxpayers funding the trips for the government officials. The group spends its time talking to their counterparts in the other cities, with the presenters telling the Parkites about the mechanics of their communities and describing the overarching issues, which oftentimes involve growth.

David Grover, a real estate agent who attended, said Park City’s housing market is solid compared to the one in McCall, describing he heard of a dropping market there even as the area offers skiing and Payette Lake, the summertime recreation hub of McCall.

"Park City is definitely competitive in terms of its pricing and the (housing) values have held," Grover says, noting that some lakeside condominiums in McCall command prices similar to those in Deer Valley.

But Grover says McCall, where a little more than 2,000 people live, according to economic-development officials there, lacks easy access for visitors, a significant difference from Park City, which has long promoted its location just outside Salt Lake City and a short drive from Salt Lake’s international airport.

"It boiled down to their airport is not very accessible," he says, comparing the McCall airport to one in Heber.

The Parkites also heard about the difficulties officials in McCall have faced as they tried to provide housing for the local work force. Real estate agents in McCall successfully sued the government there. A state court overturned a rule that had required the worker housing in developments. Park City has work force housing requirements in its development rules.

Grover says Park City real estate agents do not share the opposition to work force housing with the agents in McCall.

"It was just so foreign, truly, to have the board of realtors work against affordable housing," he says.


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