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Planning Commissioner steps down

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Saying he intends to seek a Park City Council spot sometime, veteran Park City Planning Commissioner Jim Barth resigned on Monday, ending a decade-long run of helping officiate growth on the West Side.

His resignation comes as City Councilors were preparing to appoint one person to the Planning Commission to replace Mark Sletten, who also relinquished his position on the influential panel.

With Barth’s departure, the elected officials must choose two new commissioners. The City Councilors were considering seven people to replace Sletten, and Barth’s resignation gives the candidates a better chance of being selected.

"Bottom line, 10 years is enough," Barth, 46, says, expecting to spend more time with his kids.

Barth’s and Sletten’s terms were to expire in summer 2009, at the same time as the next City Council campaign starts. He says he "definitely" plans to run for the City Council in the next decade, but he is unsure when he will seek office. He does not provide specifics about campaign plans, including whether he would run in 2009, when two City Council seats — now held by Jim Hier and Roger Harlan — are on the ballot.

Barth, an attorney and a real-estate broker who lives in Park Meadows, served on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission before being appointed to the city panel in 2001.

Barth says the field of Parkites seeking Sletten’s old seat on the Planning Commission influenced him to leave the panel. He is impressed with the Parkites competing for the Planning Commission and says there are worthy replacements.

"This is a heck of an opportunity. Maybe it’s time to go," Barth says.

Sletten’s old seat drew an unexpectedly crowded field, with two developers being among those in the running. The City Council recently interviewed six of the seven, with the last, Peter Knauer, scheduled to appear in front of the elected officials on Thursday.

The City Councilors will likely make their selections in December, but a date has not been set. The elected officials will consider the candidates in a closed-door session.

Barth joined the Planning Commission as the fierce development battles of the 1990s were subsiding, but he held office for numerous tiffs and he played a role in major decisions.

He talks about the deal between City Hall and the Empire Pass developers to build a Montage hotel on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort. Planning Commissioners, City Councilors and the developers spent months crafting an agreement for the Montage. Under the deal, the developers agreed to set aside from development vast acres of land in addition to other inducements in exchange for the additional building rights needed for the Montage.

Barth says the Montage deal advances Park City’s efforts to promote tourism and the hotel will generate lots of taxes for City Hall.

"I’ve always worn it on my sleeve — I’m a huge resort proponent," Barth says.

He counts the Planning Commission approval of a hospital and medical campus at Quinn’s Junction as another accomplishment. He cannot immediately identify a project that makes him unhappy.

Barth expects the Planning Commission will face challenges regarding traffic and the long-planned expansion of development onto parking lots at Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort. He sees the redevelopment of the North of Main district as a chance to address traffic.

During his tenure, many Parkites continued to worry about growth, even as Park City’s construction industry enjoyed record-setting years as contractors built projects approved by the Planning Commission.

Barth says it is not fair for Parkites to portray the panel as pro-development, a common mumbling. He says Utah laws tightly protect landowners’ rights. Many projects received overall approvals years ago and the current Planning Commission must abide by the earlier decisions, he says.

"No, not even close," Barth says about the accusations against the Planning Commission of rubber-stamping developments. "It’s a good group of very, very dedicated people."


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