Promontory drops ask for 22,000-square-foot homes, says County Council seeks to ‘extract’ from development
After a cordial but contentious presentation to the Summit County Council, Promontory has abandoned its attempt to increase the size of homes in a new neighborhood within the private community to 22,000 square feet.
County Councilors said the development isn’t pulling its weight in creating affordable housing for its workers and those who serve the huge homes. Developer Francis Najafi countered that he was merely seeking the codification of something that’s basically allowed already, and accused the Council of trying to extract something from him every time he has business in front of the body.
Promontory Investments, LLC, had requested to amend the Promontory Specially Planned Area Development Agreement to allow accessory dwelling units and increase the allowable home size per lot from 10,000 square feet to 22,000 square feet on 36 lots.
The developer said he is already legally allowed to combine two lots and build up to 15,000-square-foot homes on them. At the meeting, he offered to lower the square-footage request from 22,000 square feet to 15,000, add five more employee housing units to its obligation and accelerate the building timeline, as well, in exchange for combining the lots into 36 “super-custom” lots that could support homes of that size.
The Pinnacle subdivision is a planned gated community within the gated community of Promontory, and Najafi told the elected officials during a public meeting Wednesday the attempt to expand home sizes would allow him to access a new market of buyers.
“It’s a marketing issue for me, that’s all it is,” Najafi said. “That buyer does not want to be sitting next to a buyer that has not combined a lot.”
Councilors countered that the 20-year-old development agreement includes outdated standards for affordable housing. They indicated if they opened up the agreement, they would seek to apply current standards, which could be as many as 300 units. Najafi initially offered to up the total to 40.
He characterized the requested changes as minor and seemed to find the Council’s request disproportionate.
“The larger issue, quite candidly, the one that I’m disturbed by, is the fact that you perceive that somehow because we’ve been successful, that somehow every time we come in front of you you’ve got to extract something from us,” Najafi said.
Councilors suggested a meeting with Najafi and staff in a closed setting to work it out. Councilors Chris Robinson and Doug Clyde agreed to represent the Council, and they set a time.
Robinson said he was “trying to get to yes.”
Initially, Najafi agreed, saying it was his top priority and he was only an hour-and-twenty-minute flight away.
But by Thursday afternoon, Promontory had withdrawn its request.
Promontory general manager Robin Milne said the group would make accommodations on its end and didn’t want to trouble the county any further.
“Based on what the county wanted in return for our request, we just felt it was an overreach,” Milne said. “We decided to continue operating under the existing development agreement as is.”
That agreement allows for 1,764 units and nearly 700 have been built so far, Najafi said. It requires 37 employee housing units, of which two have been built.
Since at least 2008, the Snyderville Basin Development Code has required 20 percent of the density of new developments to be dedicated to affordable housing, Summit County Planner Amir Caus said.
That requirement doesn’t exist on the East Side, but Councilor Kim Carson said the service demands are coming from the Basin, and called the five extra units Najafi suggested “woefully inadequate.”
She pointed out two recent Basin developments — Silver Creek and Discovery — have each surpassed 25 percent in affordable housing.
Councilor Glenn Wright said he’d want to require a similar percentage on the remaining development if Promontory’s development agreement were to be reopened, which would yield about 250 affordable housing units.
“I just think you need to pull your weight when it comes to affordable housing,” Wright said. “You’ve created enormous burden in the county and because you have a 20-year-old agreement, you’re not pulling your weight.”
In a response to a question from Wright, Milne said the development employs about 310 people in the busy season and around 180 in quieter times.
Najafi spent the first 10 or so minutes of his presentation extolling the contributions the development has made to the Summit County community in taxes and philanthropy.
That includes what he said to be $160 million in property tax revenue over 20 years, $155 million in construction that supports small businesses, $4.1 million to local nonprofits in the last 15 years and $1 million for a new fire station, an ambulance and the land it sits on.
“We have tried to be sensitive to the community’s concerns,” Najafi said. “As we’ve been reminded today, clearly the county’s priorities have shifted (since the developer agreement was signed in the late 1990s.)”
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