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Retirement living dealt a key defeat

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Feeling pressure from developers who are itching to build along the congested Interstate 80 corridor, Summit County commissioners couldn’t agree on the latest request to rezone land near Rasmussen and Kilby roads.

"It is one of the main gateways into the whole area," Summit County planner Jay Aguilar said.

At issue is whether a 205,000 square-foot assisted-living facility should be built on 30 acres in Jeremy Ranch along the banks of East Canyon Creek. Slated were retail and office space, three apartment buildings, four condominiums a community center and medical facility.

"That was an extremely large scale development for that particular area, in an area that’s already got some peak traffic problems," Aguilar said.

But seniors who decry the dearth of affordable housing in western Summit County say retirement living is what the area needs.

"We have the opportunity to have something like this in the county, something that the state doesn’t even have," explained Summit County Commissioner Ken Woolstenhulme, the lone supporter of the project who is in his 70s. "I think that it behooves us to take a hard look at making this thing possible."

But with a 2-1 vote last month against rezoning the land, County Commissioners Bob Richer and Sally Elliott appear to have effectively killed the housing proposal.

"What can we do to make ourselves known and maybe put a little pressure on our County Commission to give this project approval?" Parkite Barbara Wine asked while pleading with commissioners to support the plan.

The builder was preparing for 29 percent of the units to be subsidized, low-income housing, insists project developer Russ Sorensen, who added that seniors comprise 15 percent of the county’s population.

"We see a great need and we’re willing to bear costs to build a project that we see has a great deal of success," Sorensen said.

The project was situated between the Summit Center business park and Jeremy Ranch Elementary School where Mike Allred, who owns the Summit Center, says zoning in the area must improve.

"There is a tremendous need for this project," Allred said. "They have a fantastic vision for this project and it’s a vision that Summit County needs desperately."

But the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission rejected the proposal and commissioners were right to deny the rezone request, planners say.

"We’re an aging population," Parkite Ben Vallor protested. "The complexion of Park City is changing and I think we need to allow for the change."

Growth pressures Snyderville

"The planning commission, they felt it opened up too far of a range — a Pandora’s box on what other uses might be located at this site, if this housing facility did not work out," said Don Sargent, a planner in Summit County, speaking about the request for different zoning.

Planners concerned assisted living in Snyderville might fail cautioned commissioners not to unwittingly allow a plethora of other businesses in its place by changing zones.

"[Rezoning the land] does not exclusively mean that that’s what will be built there," Aguilar said. "We have to be very careful and the [County Commission] also hopefully is very careful in how they approve a scale change of that nature."

The smattering of businesses along Kilby and Rasmussen roads have created a commercial "hodgepodge" that has planners struggling to regulate growth, he added.

"It looks kind of fringy as you come into town you have an area that has got a lot of commercial in it regardless of whether we believe it should be there or not," Aguilar said. "Over the last few years there have been (rezone) requests and the majority of them have been turned down."

Proposals for high-intensity projects like more big-box stores haven’t gained traction in Snyderville where planning commissioners are "talking about much smaller scale types of things," Summit County Community Development Director Nora Shepard said.

Adhering to the Snyderville Basin General Plan means clustering new commercial development alongside existing business centers like Kimball Junction, Quinn’s Junction and Silver Creek, Aguilar explained.

Flanked by property made sensitive by steep slopes and wetlands, for land along Kilby and Rasmussen roads low-density houses are perhaps most appropriate, he speculated.

"We tend to believe that the general plan is still valid," Aguilar said.


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