Stoppage ordered on some Old Town development applications | ParkRecord.com

Stoppage ordered on some Old Town development applications

by Jay Hamburger THE PARK RECORD

City Hall has temporarily stopped processing some common zoning applications in Old Town, giving officials the second half of 2011 to consider further restrictions on the size of houses in the neighborhood.

The City Council recently agreed to the stoppage. Nobody testified at a hearing prior to the City Council decision. There has not been apparent widespread interest in the move among Parkites.

The stoppage ends on Dec. 15. In that time, the Planning Department will accept but not process a few sorts of applications, including requests to amend plats in the neighborhood and requests to adjust the lines between Old Town lots. Those sorts of requests are commonplace in Old Town, but they typically do not draw much attention.

Property owners, though, often submit those sorts of applications in anticipation of developing the land or expanding a building on the parcel. At that point, development applications sometimes draw opposition from neighbors.

Thomas Eddington, City Hall’s planning director, said the stoppage provides time to study development issues in Old Town. He said staffers will examine the effects of allowing property owners to combine lots in Old Town and how the combinations influence the footprints of buildings. The footprint of a building eventually determines the building’s size.

There was not a sharp increase in applications prior to the stoppage being publicized, Eddington said. In the past year, he said, the number of those sorts of applications has been steady at as many as a few each month.

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The stoppage comes as Park City leaders are considering changes to zoning rules in Old Town. The changes could broadly limit the size of houses as well as further restrict the height of Old Town houses, Eddington said, noting that those topics will be broached during the stoppage.

"I think this is what people in Old Town expect to see in that area," Eddington said, explaining that the "scale, massing, streetscape appearance" could be influenced by the discussions.

Houses in Old Town are now limited to 27 feet tall and three stories.

In a report to the elected officials prior to the stoppage being enacted, Eddington wrote, "there appears to be a trend toward larger buildings." The ordinance that the City Council adopted putting the stoppage in place said, in part, "the creation of large out-of-scale structures could permanently alter the character of a neighborhood, community and City." The ordinance also said, "the mass and scale of buildings within the City’s historic districts must continue to maintain the fabric that was historically established."

There have been disputes for years in Old Town focused on the size of houses. Owners argue they hold rights to build larger houses and say that property buyers are interested in the larger ones.

But neighbors frequently oppose applications requesting larger houses, saying they will overwhelm a historic streetscape. Park City’s influential preservation community also closely watches trends in Old Town house sizes.