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Station eyed for housing

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

City Hall plans to seek ideas to build restricted affordable housing on three parcels of land, an indication that the city, after watching workers struggle through this winter’s brutal rents, will become a more aggressive player in the housing market.

Mayor Dana Williams and the Park City Council have told staffers to consider:

( A parcel of land off Snow Creek Drive, east of the site where a police station is under construction.

( The ground where the Park Avenue fire station sits.

( A small plot of land off Marsac Avenue, across the street from the Sandridge parking lot.

The city intends to issue formal requests for ideas for the Snow Creek and Park Avenue sites and further consider the smaller parcel off Marsac Avenue. Combined, the three parcels represent what would be the most significant affordable-housing move the local government has made in years.

"In my memory, I can’t think of another project where the city said, ‘Here’s our land. Let’s build a project,’" Phyllis Robinson, who leads City Hall’s housing programs, said afterward.

Robinson, who once helmed Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, a not-for-profit group dedicated to assisting people otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market, estimates the Snow Creek land could hold between 20 and 30 townhouses, 40 condominiums or 10 single-family homes. The development would cover 1.85 acres.

At the location of the fire station, Robinson has calculated that between 10 and 20 condominiums are possible.

Off Marsac Avenue, on land known as the Pechnik parcel, Robinson says four units could fit.

City Hall owns the Snow Creek and Pechnik land but must negotiate a deal with the Park City Fire District for the Park Avenue fire station parcel. The district plans to move that station’s operations to a new facility, probably allowing City Hall to obtain the land in a deal with the fire district.

During the meeting, Williams, the City Council and Robinson discussed a number of points related to the housing but there appeared to be little interest from regular Parkites. A hearing was not scheduled.

The elected officials indicated they preferred that the housing be made available to people who want to purchase the units not rent them. They also said they do not want the housing to be seasonal units for the ski season.

Williams said he hopes that the developments are designed interestingly, that they are environmentally friendly, such as employing renewable energy sources, and that the Snow Creek project become a "showcase parcel."

Meanwhile, the officials said that they do not intend to make the units available to developers wanting to fulfill their projects’ affordable-housing requirements. They prefer that those developers build the housing that they are made to under City Hall’s rules.

"I do not want another developer to use this as part of their requirement," Williams, a longtime affordable-housing champion, said.

The decision allows City Hall staffers to seek an architect and a builder for the projects but lots of details have not been decided, including a budget for the housing. If the city or a City Hall-hired developer intend to sell the units, the revenues from the sales would likely fund the construction. They would probably be sold with restrictions that regulate qualifying incomes and how much the units could appreciate.

"The working class and the middle class in this community is a threatened species," Williams said afterward, adding that himself and the City Councilors see "socio-economic diversity" as important to Park City.

Detailed talks would be scheduled after applications are submitted. The Planning Commission would need to consider the projects before City Hall could proceed.

Park City officials have for years seen providing affordable housing as critical to the community but development proposals sometimes encounter neighborhood opposition, including a bitter dispute once about an idea to build on the edge of Park Meadows and another confrontation on the edge of Prospector.

The leaders say ensuring that people of varying means can afford to live locally provides diversity in the community and allows people like police officers and firefighters to reside in the city where they work.

But the opponents frequently are concerned that the developments could threaten home values in the neighborhoods, that they do not fit on the land where they are proposed and that the projects would attract too much traffic.

Scott Loomis, the executive director at Mountainlands, says studies have found that Park City needs about 800 more restricted affordable units, costing no more than 30 percent of a person’s income.

"Anything, obviously, is needed. They’ve got to get it done," Loomis says. "I think it makes sense. Anything the city can do is a big help to the community."

Loomis says the Snow Creek site is "certainly a good location" and hopes that there is not opposition.

"There’s neighbors but it would be very comparable to what’s in there," he says about the potential of upsetting people who live nearby. "I would hope not but in this community, you never know."


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