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Mile Post 2020: Growth on the doorstep

Beach-goers relax in the sand along the shoreline of the Jordanelle Reservoir Friday afternoon, July 24, 2020.
Tanzi Propst/The Park Record

Residential growth around the Jordanelle Reservoir seems like an inevitability — a question of if, not when.

Much of it has already been approved by various governmental entities, with the maximum amount of density locked in at many projects and only administrative decisions remaining, like how particular neighborhoods align and where the particular houses will go.

The pandemic might even be hastening the development, as Realtors reported this summer was one of their busiest, with no shortage of people looking to move to the Park City area. They pointed to the new emphasis on working remotely, fresh mountain air and, anecdotally at least, local schools holding in-person classes as some of the factors attracting people to the area in 2020.

Demand to live here remains strong, though COVID-19 may yet have more to say about our economic reality.

There are a number of entitled developments ringing the Jordanelle Reservoir that are waiting for a developer to pull the trigger and bring capital to bear. In many cases, there are high-level development agreements already settled that leave only specifics to be worked out.

From Brown’s Canyon Road in the northeast to Heber in the southwest, there are roughly 20,000 units, unit equivalents or lots entitled to be built in the vicinity of the Jordanelle Reservoir.

It’s unlikely that those 20,000 will be built. Market saturation might delay or dissuade some developers, and developers have in some recent cases opted to build fewer homes than they were entitled to build.

Early last decade, the Great Recession slowed things down for a few years, development watchers have said, but many point to Vail Resorts’ purchase of Park City Mountain Resort in 2015 as the restart of skyrocketing values in the area, the so- called “Vail Effect.”

Bill Coleman, a prominent real estate figure and longtime Parkite who is working on a residential project called SkyRidge on the north side of the Jordanelle, said the ski industry also played a role in the massive number of entitlements around the reservoir that were made in previous decades, albeit a more indirect one.

Speaking earlier this year, Coleman said Wasatch County wanted a bite out of the apple when it saw neighboring Summit County flooded with development money.

That led to a rash of entitlements starting in the 1980s, he said, entitlements that live on to this day. Many have yet to be built and require further approvals, but the base density remains.

For the people who already live in the area, and those about to move in, there can be a sense of arrested development, as their housing subdivisions count open rangeland as their neighbors. Buying a dozen eggs or filling up the gas tank re- quires a trip to Kamas, Heber, Park City or Kimball Junction.

It’s that lack of commercial services that Hideout officials said was behind theirattempt to annex hundreds of acres of land in Richardson Flat, and they accuse Wasatch and Summit counties of drop- ping the ball when it comes to regional planning.

Summit and Wasatch counties disagree. In a July memo outlining Wasatch County’s planning for commercial services over the years, Planning Director Doug Smith identifies some 350,000 square feet of planned commercial spaces in several nodes around the reservoir, though in many cases the numbers are the maximum of what’s allowed and less square footage may be built.

That’s in addition to the development associated with the Mayflower Mountain Resort.

Developers of that project have said it will likely include support commercial services for its workers like a small grocery store in addition to the high-end boutique offerings that are planned.

Summit County Manager Tom Fisher put the total square footage of commercial services planned in the area closer to 1 million square feet, including developments planned just north on U.S. 40 in the Silver Creek Village area.

For comparison, the Smith’s Market at Kimball Junction is about 60,000 square feet, according to Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt.

Exactly when these commercial services will come online, though, is unknown.

“The parcels zoned commercial only re- quire a site plan approval,” Smith wrote in the memo about Wasatch County regional planning. “The County cannot force a property owner to develop their commercial property.”

So just like the planned residential development, it seems a matter of when, not if, businesses will begin to pop up around the Jordanelle.

But developers being ready to move forward with commercial projects in these uncertain times might be less of a sure thing than finding the droves of people who seem eager to relocate to Park City.


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