Process to fill a spot on the Park City Planning Commission to begin again

Pamela Manson The Park Record
The Marsac Building.
Park Record file photo

The Park City Council has voted down one of Mayor Nann Worel’s recommendations to fill a spot on the Planning Commission, and the process to fill the position is slated to begin again in September.

City Council members at a recent meeting voted 3-2 against the appointment of Bryan Markkanen, an architect with Elliott Workgroup, to a four-year term. City Councilors Ryan Dickey, Jeremy Rubell and Tana Toly cast the ‘nay’ votes, while Max Doilney and Becca Gerber were in favor of the appointment.

City Councilors did not comment on their votes during the meeting. Markkanen declined to comment.

Markkanen has lived in Park City for 20 years and served two terms on the municipal Public Art Advisory Board. He said in his application climate change, housing and community development are issues of prime importance that the city should address.

The people recommended for three other spots on the Planning Commission were appointed. 

John Frontero, founder of New York City trading firm Cross Point Capital and its CEO until he retired in June, was appointed to a four-year term on a 5-0 vote. He has lived in Park City for two years.

Frontero listed traffic and parking, workforce housing and climate change as major issues. If there is additional climate warming in Park City of only a few degrees in the next 10 years, 50% of the snow will be gone and the ski season will be shortened to only January and February, he said in his application.

The City Council reappointed Planning Commission member John Kenworthy, approving him on a 3-2 vote for a one-year term. Doilney and Gerber dissented.

Kenworthy, who was appointed in 2018, has owned properties in Park City and Heber City for 17 years. His current businesses include River’s Edge Resort and Campground, Flanagan’s on Main, Main Street Hospitality Group and Summit Ventures Partners.

Transit, holistic master planning and historic preservation are among his priorities, according to Kenworthy’s application.  

In a 4-1 vote, Planning Commissioner Laura Suesser also was reappointed and will be serving a three-year term. Doilney was the ‘nay’ vote.

Suesser, who was appointed in 2015, is an attorney and said in her application she has represented numerous clients on various real estate and land-use transactions.

Traffic, walkability and resort base development are issues of prime importance to Suesser, who has lived in Park City for 17 years.

“Plans for resource-based development need to be carefully scrutinized to confirm consistency with the pertinent parameters and objectives of the existing entitlements and due compliance with the Land Management Code and General Plan,” she said.

Suesser and Kenworthy, along with Planning Commissioner Bill Johnson, voted in June to uphold an appeal of an administrative conditional-use permit that would have allowed for upgrades to the Eagle and Silverlode Express lifts at Park City Mountain Resort.

The Planning Commission reviews a wide range of land-use applications, annexation requests, subdivisions, plat amendments, master planned developments and conditional-use permits. There were 10 applicants for the four open spots, and they were interviewed by the City Council in June and July. 

Doilney declined Monday to comment on his vote but told The Park Record the City Council needs to start working together a little better “to come to a little bit more consensus on a whole slew of decisions.”

Rubell told The Park Record he could not comment on personnel matters, but he hopes Markkanen will reapply when the process reopens.

“I’ve encouraged him to apply again and I hope he does,” Rubell said.

Dickey said Markkanen has a great background, and he does not have an issue with him specifically.

“My vote was really driven by the fact that there was not consensus or anything approaching consensus around the nomination from Nann,” he said. “When it comes to the Planning Commission, in a town of 8,000 people, we should be able to find folks who have broad support across the council and we’re not trying to push people through with 3-2 votes. For the benefit of the new commissioner, if nothing else, they should go into the job with the full support of the council.”

Two of the open spots on the seven-member Planning Commission were created by the resignation in May of Douglas Thimm, who has a background in architecture and planning, and the expiration of Planning Commissioner John Phillips’ term at the end of July.

Phillips, a general contractor, served on the Planning Commission for nine years, three of them as chair. 

“I am not exaggerating when I say that serving on the Park City Planning Commission has been the greatest professional honor of my life,” Phillips said. “I embarked on this journey to help steer development; little did I know the impact it would have on my own personal growth. Thank you, Park City.”

Worel, a former Planning Commission member, proposed starting the application process in September so staffers would have time in August to look at amending city code to require at least one Planning Commissioner have expertise in a field such as construction, architecture or planning. 

“I have spent five years sitting on the commission and I was so fortunate during that entire time to have amazing commissioners sitting next to me that had experience in various areas that I did not,” Worel said. “We have lost that expertise with the expiration of the terms of Doug Thimm, as well as John Phillips.”

All City Council members were in favor of the proposal. 

Doilney noted Park City is a small town and said it might be hard to fill the seat.

“Everybody who’s a professional in this town has worked on a number of different projects,” he said. “You’re always going to have somebody who may have some perceived conflict in their past. We’re going to have to get over that hurdle and understand that sometimes people are not the company they work for.”

Gerber cited another difficulty, saying fewer people are able to move into the community.“It’s gotten harder and harder for people who work in contracting and building and development to afford to live here,” she said. 

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