Project proceeds with trim gaff
May 17, 2006
Mountainlands Community Housing Trust last week decisively won a vote from the Park City Planning Commission allowing the organization to keep aluminum trim, material normally not approved, on its Line Condominiums.
The trust acknowledged that it was wrong to put up the trim at the 22-unit site, 555-577 Deer Valley Drive, without permission from the government, but claimed that it would be expensive to take it down and replace it with wood.
Planning Commissioners on May 10 voted 3-2 in favor of Mountainlands as it continues work on the long-delayed affordable-housing project.
The majority rejected a recommendation from Planning Director Pat Putt, who early in the week issued a report citing City Hall’s development rules as the basis for his opinion that the request should be denied.
Putt said in the report that aluminum does not match the material on nearby buildings, which he said feature trim made of wood or rock. Putt previously denied the request from Mountainlands, which then appealed that decision to the Planning Commission.
Planning Commissioners Jack Thomas, Diane Zimney and Mark Sletten supported Mountainlands and Charlie Wintzer and Michael O’Hara wanted Putt’s recommendation to stand.
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Two neighbors were miffed Wednesday that Mountainlands requested the alteration, charging that it would belittle the entryway to Deer Valley.
Michael Martin, who lives nearby, was especially critical, claiming the project is turning the road into Deer Valley a "zero-star entrance." He said people who plan to move into the Line Condominiums should expect nicer buildings.
"They deserve better than this," Martin said, alleging that Mountainlands’ performance at the site has been "incompetent" and that "they may build New Orleans before they finish this deal."
Mary Demkowicz, who also lives close by, wanted City Hall to force Mountainlands to take down the aluminum trim, worried that the decision would set a precedent and said that the project has hurt the neighborhood.
"It’s a shame and it’s really sad," Demkowicz said.
The project has been beset by problems, including a well-publicized and disputed stop-work order that City Hall later rescinded and cost overruns, since a June 2003 groundbreaking. Its completion date, originally scheduled about six months after major work started in May 2004, has been pushed back several times.
Mountainlands chief Scott Loomis said that the group would save between $20,000 and $25,000 with the aluminum. It would have cost an additional $40,000 to tear down the aluminum trim already installed and replace it with wood, he said.
"Anywhere we could save money was critical just to keep the price down as much as we could," Loomis said in an interview before the vote, explaining the decision to use aluminum instead of wood.
Loomis said he hopes that Mountainlands obtains permits allowing people to move in to some of the units as early as the end of next week, which would be followed by occupancy in about a week afterward.
He admitted fault regarding the aluminum trim. He said in an interview that, "clearly, we made a mistake."
Loomis explained that the group’s construction supervisor, who he said once worked for the Park City Building Department, said the aluminum was approved material and that it would be less expensive. He said Mountainlands did not approach City Hall with the request to use aluminum after the supervisor provided his opinion.
"It’s not like we’re without fault," he said.
Loomis said the aluminum trim was installed on four of the new buildings, each on the Deer Valley Drive-facing part of the property. The trim was installed three or four months ago, Loomis said.
He said nobody noticed the error until a Mountainlands-hired architect about a month ago approached the government with unrelated questions regarding the color of a gutter. The Planning Department then brought up the aluminum trim, Loomis said.
Moutainlands is a non-profit dedicated to providing housing for people otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real-estate market. The Line Condominiums are among the group’s most ambitious projects and the delays have stressed relations between the group and City Hall, which sees itself as a longtime champion of affordable housing and has financially backed the development.
Prices in the project have risen sharply since the groundbreaking, but they are still well under those being paid in the neighborhood. Loomis recently projected that the units would sell for between $99,000 and $194,000, up from the original forecast of between $60,000 and $130,000. The project entails 22 units, 10 one-bedrooms, 10 two-bedrooms and two redone historic houses.
People must qualify through their income to purchase in the project and Mountainlands said on Wednesday that as many as five units might be available if pending applications are denied. Some people originally interested have since dropped their names from the list as the delays continued.
Demkowicz, one of the neighbors who testified on Wednesday, noted the price increases as she criticized Mountainlands. She indicated those who wanted to live there will have difficulty with the higher cost.
"The people who really need this project are not going to be able to afford it," she said.