‘Staggering’ amount of development breaks records in Summit County, but officials say it’s mostly going in the right places
Development in 2019 broke records in the amount of money invested and new value created in Summit County, officials said.
And while “growth” is almost a four-letter word to many county residents, officials said they’ve received few complaints about new construction this year. They claim that is at least partly due to their success in intentionally clustering development in certain areas.
Pat Putt, the county’s community development director, called the efforts of staff like building inspectors “herculean” and wondered whether the county could keep up the blistering pace.
“When you add them all up, it’s a staggering amount of investment having gone in county-wide,” Putt said. “The vast majority of this development is occurring in places that we have been attempting to direct it toward or plan it for. Most of this growth — a lot is occurring in the Canyons, which, that’s where we want it to grow.”
Putt and Peter Barnes, the county’s director of planning and zoning and design, pointed to the Lodge at Blue Sky and Woodward Park City as other notable developments in 2019, in addition to other areas of in-fill development in previously planned neighborhoods like Promontory.
They also touted the adoption of the Kimball Junction neighborhood plan and the ongoing Cedar Crest overlay committee as two planning achievements.
The county’s goal is to create density in specific areas that will reduce reliance on automobiles by providing easy access to necessities and amenities like grocery stores and parks, and to have that development “node” on a transit system to allow people to move freely around the area.
Last year, there was about $204 million of new value created in the county, Putt said. This year — not counting the totals for December — that number is at $305 million, a staggering 50% jump.
Through November, county building inspectors completed about 19,000 inspections, which is about 2,000 more than in all of 2018, Putt said.
Notable growth in Canyons Village includes the nearly 275,000-square-foot mixed-use Pendry Hotel and commercial complex that was approved in the summer and a workforce housing proposal that is working its way through the approval process. As currently contemplated, it could house 1,153 workers in accommodations similar to student housing.
Barnes said investment in the Lodge at Blue Sky has reached nearly $300 million and that the project has been relatively hidden, as it’s tucked away on a hillside near Wanship. He called it a “game changer” and officials have seen it as an example of a way East Side communities can capitalize on their agricultural roots.
Barnes and Putt also mentioned ongoing construction in Promontory, Discovery Ridge and the opening of Woodward Park City as significant projects.
Putt said one of the most significant planning achievements of the year is the Cedar Crest overlay committee, a group of 28 landowners near Hoytsville that have been meeting to design a new town.
They’ve created at least three drafts of a potential zoning map that arranges their land into general areas earmarked for residential uses, commercial zones and open spaces.
“Six years ago, everybody was yelling at everybody,” Putt said. “They’re in a room now working to develop a broader collective vision.”
He said the goal is for the committee to create a recommendation this spring or early summer. That would likely go through the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission and then to the Summit County Council.
Barnes said other communities have also expressed interest in the process and are watching how it plays out.
The county in June approved the Kimball Junction neighborhood plan, which codifies priorities like transportation integration and mixed-use neighborhoods that are self-contained and in which a resident can walk, bike or ride a bus to accomplish most of their daily needs.
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission has been evaluating a proposal for the Tech Center in Kimball Junction that would significantly increase that area’s density. Barnes said that, while construction of the Olympic View project is far from certain, he hopes the Kimball Junction neighborhood master plan will help guide the process and “keep development where it needs to be.”
Officials have recently had talks with stakeholders including the Utah Department of Transportation regarding the future of the Interstate 80-S.R. 224 interchange. The Olympic View developers have floated ambitious plans for the area, like underground tunnels to serve a bus rapid transit system and gondolas connecting across S.R. 224, up to the Utah Olympic Park and possibly beyond. They’ve been open in saying they wouldn’t be able to finance those projects on their own.
Barnes said that’s another case where having the Kimball Junction plan in place might prove beneficial.
“Everyone’s aware of the painful impact of traffic on 224,” Barnes said. “The solution — there’s probably not one solution — (but) a major solution, rather than be handed down as a dictate from UDOT, UDOT will look at our neighborhood plan and use that to guide any solution that comes to the fore.”
There are two new planning tools being evaluated by government officials that would likely significantly change how new developments are evaluated, a neighborhood mixed-use zone and the master-planned development process. Putt has referred to the master-planned development process as akin to an “open-book test” for developers, in which they’re tasked with telling a coherent story of their vision for a site and how it integrates county priorities like affordable housing and transit integration.
“Gone are the days that we’re pushing development way to the perimeter and saying ‘We’ll figure out the transit later,’” Putt said. “All of the development energy is going to locations that can immediately be serviced by transit. In doing so, (we’re) making some of our transit opportunities more viable.”
Looking to the future, Putt said one of his goals is to engage more with younger residents. He said that, historically, most planning work has been done by an older, graying generation and planning a viable future needs to include those who will live with those decisions.
“One of the big steps that we’re going to be undertaking in 2020 (is) actively sitting down and finding a way to get those young adults a seat at the table,” Putt said. “When I think of big successes, that opening of the door for that conversation is important for us and we’re going to do more to crack the door open.”
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