Proposed mixed-use zone, new planning process could change future developments in Summit County
A few years ago, Summit County effectively banned approvals for any new growth in the Snyderville Basin unless it primarily promoted a “compelling countervailing public interest.”
If that sounds like legal jargon, that’s probably because it is.
It’s a long way from that language to a vision of what kind of growth, exactly, would serve the public’s interest.
But the county planning department and the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission are trying to come up with policies and guidelines that will shape future growth, and at Tuesday’s meeting, the commission heard about two such tools that may play an important role in shaping how the Basin looks in years to come.
One is a proposed new zone for areas that would contain a variety of uses, like homes, businesses and open spaces, and the other is an entirely new process to review developments.
Snyderville Basin Planning Commission Chair Malena Stevens said the goal is to create a better process for developers and the public so they can create a better product for the community.
“We’re expecting a huge increase in population,” Stevens said. “(We) have to have an increase of density to allow for spaces for transit and public spaces. …It’s a model seen more so in urbanized areas, but has been very successful in allowing the creation of really vibrant public spaces.”
The proposed new neighborhood mixed-use zone would dictate everything from how many units could go on a piece of land to the height of buildings to a building’s energy efficiency.
Several areas have been designated as potential mixed-use sites, including in the Jeremy Ranch/Pinebrook area, Silver Creek, along Rasmussen Road and a large swath of Kimball Junction.
Land would only be rezoned as neighborhood mixed use if the landowner requested a zoning change from the county.
A new development process is being created at the same time as the mixed-use zone. It would govern how projects — both new developments and redevelopments — seek approval, and it is anticipated that new mixed-use projects would go through the approval process if it’s adopted.
Community Development Director Pat Putt said the new process would replace the more subjective, negotiation-based process that exists currently with something that is more predictable.
“It’s like giving a developer an open-book test,” Putt said. “We are going to ask you 12-14 questions. Here they are. Come prepared to tell us how you’re going to answer them.”
Stevens said the goal is to create a more transparent, consistent process that would benefit both developers — in that they’d know what to expect upfront — and members of the public, who could more easily follow the process.
The ad-hoc, one-project-at-a-time process now in place has resulted in some disjointed development, like in Kimball Junction or the Canyons.
Putt characterized negotiations under the current system as the county stating its priorities, like trails or affordable housing or a new fire station, and wrestling with the developer until the sides come to an agreement about what the developer should get in return for those community benefits, like adding density to a project or allowing greater building height.
“We believe a better approach is to define exactly the things that we want to achieve, the community benefits that are important to achieve,” Putt said. “Name them, measure them, and then begin the process to review them.”
The proposed new development process would also require a preliminary public meeting with the developers and the Planning Commission so the commissioners would get a chance to weigh in on a concept before the developer invests in the engineering and architectural work necessary for an application.
And it would require the developers to write a project narrative addressing things like neighborhood connectivity, how it meets the community need for diverse housing prices, and plans for open spaces, traffic, parking and connection to existing services.
A previous draft of the neighborhood mixed-use zone came before the Planning Commission in 2017 but was dropped. The timeline has been accelerated because a developer has requested the development code be amended to include the zone. Henry Sigg intends to rezone the property at 6341 Silver Creek Drive, between the Habitat ReStore and Home Depot, to neighborhood mixed use in order to build the Market at Silver Creek.
There is another public hearing on the zone planned for Sept. 24.
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