Summit County, Park City cut red tape for businesses to prepare for winter in a pandemic
Stay safe to stay open — that’s the credo officials have repeated in support of public health policies aimed to curb the spread of the coronavirus while allowing businesses to survive.
Much of the burden has fallen to the public, which is asked to wear masks, maintain social distance, eschew gatherings and wash hands frequently. But governments, too, have taken steps to support these efforts by providing personal protective equipment, grants to businesses and families and the public health framework that hopefully will deliver mass vaccinations soon.
In recent weeks, Summit County and Park City took one more modest step in that direction, making it easier for businesses to serve their customers outside by waiving fees and streamlining the application process for temporary structures like tents to facilitate safer commerce this ski season.
The County Council passed a temporary zoning ordinance at its meeting Wednesday night, one month after Park City passed a similar measure. The two governments worked together to craft the policies to help local businesses ahead of what is expected to be a challenging ski season.
Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt said the county is trying to take down as many bureaucratic barriers as it can to help local businesses.
“We’re heading into the ski season, heading into the holiday season, I think this is that time of year that businesses end up succeeding or failing. It’s an absolutely critical period of time,” Putt said. “If we can help them, knowing the year that they’ve had, I think it’s our responsibility to try and do our best and assist them.”
The Project for Deeper Understanding is hosting a virtual conversation at the outset of ski season to discuss “Wintering the Pandemic” with officials from ski resorts, local businesses, schools and the health care industry.
The conversation is scheduled from 6:30 – 8 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, and can be viewed on Zoom at summitcountyut.zoom.us/j/92021365972. The conversation will also be aired live on KPCW radio, Park City Television and Facebook Live, but those attending via Zoom will be able to submit questions in real time using the video conferencing software’s chat function.
To submit questions ahead of the conversation, visit surveymonkey.com/r/winterpandemic.
The panelists include Park City Mountain Resort Chief Operating Officer Mike Goar, North Summit School District Superintendent Jerre Holmes, Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough and Intermountain Park City Hospital Administrator Lori Weston.
It will be moderated by former Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley, who hosts “Political Peeks” on Park City Television.
The Rev. Charles Robinson, who organizes these community discussions at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Silver Springs, said he couldn’t imagine anything more relevant to the community right now.
“There is nobody, I mean absolutely no one of us, that escapes this topic. This is touching everybody,” Robinson said. “And that’s almost rare for a topic. Generally we’re talking about competing interests between subgroups or communities within larger communities, but, boy, this time, it’s all of us. Everybody. So we’re all in this together.”
He added that most permits could be granted within 10 days when the usual process takes the better part of a month. The county’s order stands to expire in six months, and officials indicated they would review it in the meantime and possibly extend provisions that have proven to be beneficial.
Putt said some aspects of the inspection process that bordered on redundancy were eliminated, but that the Park City Fire Department and the Summit County Building Department would continue to ensure that the structures remain safe.
Officials noted the importance of fire safety, in particular, as the structures are anticipated to be large-scale temporary tents complete with space heaters and electricity to expand dining and drinking options for restaurants, bars and ski resorts.
The structures will still have to comply with regulations governing noise and light and cannot impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Putt said the summer months highlighted the importance for businesses to have the flexibility to expand their operations outside. He added that collaboration between Park City and Summit County ensured that inspection agencies wouldn’t have to operate from a different set of rules when inspecting a business at Kimball Junction compared to a business on Main Street.
This zoning ordinance is one piece of a larger effort by government officials trying to prepare for what could be the hardest stretch of the pandemic.
In early October, Summit County convened a working group of high-ranking officials from the planning, health, management and economic development offices that meets frequently to address challenges that have arisen and are expected to come as tourists arrive this winter and activities move increasingly indoors.
Deputy County Manager Janna Young said the winter planning committee has three areas of focus: to help businesses modify to adapt to the pandemic; to conduct an information campaign of “community conversations” with leaders from various industries around the county; and to expand COVID-19 testing to shorten the quarantine period for workers who have been exposed to the virus.
The first of the virtual community conversations is scheduled for Dec. 7.
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