Summit County review of Newpark condo project continues
August 24, 2018
The Summit County Council reluctantly decided on Wednesday to postpone a vote on the appeal of a controversial condominium building in Newpark even though some members of the panel appeared poised to make a decision.
The choice to delay a vote followed a more-than-three-hour discussion with the developer and representatives of those fighting the proposed building's design. An appeal was filed with the Summit County Planning and Building Department at the end of June challenging County Manager Tom Fisher's decision to approve the final plat and site plan.
The proposed seven-unit, four-story building would be located in the space south of Maxwell's East Coast Eatery. A parking lot occupied the location, but crews recently began removing the asphalt in preparation for construction. Fencing now surrounds the site.
Elected officials joined the developer and members of Preserve Newpark Plaza, the group appealing the project's design, for a site visit Wednesday afternoon before the meeting. The tour was intended to give County Council members a better idea of how a residential building would fit on Newpark's main street, which is predominantly occupied by commercial businesses.
The County Council's review of the appeal has focused on whether a residential building with no commercial business on its ground level would violate the concept of a town center or the development agreement for the area. The site was originally approved for commercial, but Newpark's development agreement provides a clause that allows developers flexibility with projects based on current market conditions.
Preserve Newpark Plaza maintains that the governing documents for the development of Newpark limit residential units to the upper levels of the buildings in the area. The group further claims the documents restrict buildings to three stories.
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"We are saying that residential on the main level of (Center Drive) in the middle of a commercial area is incompatible with the Newpark specially planned principles," said Andrew Blonquist, an attorney for Preserve Newpark. "The applicant is seeking an exception and it can only be granted if it can conform to the specially planned area for the site."
Summit County staffers and the county attorney's office maintain Fisher did not err in his decision to approve the building's design. Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas pointed to other buildings in the area that are of a similar height and are considered residential, particularly the Newpark Hotel, which some members of Preserve Newpark Plaza had a hand in developing.
Thomas said the County Council cannot approve the appeal of the building's design based on the argument that residential is not allowed on Center Drive unless there is clear language stating that.
Brothers Ryan and Matthew Crandall, partners of Crandall Capital and who are overseeing the project, claim the building was designed in its current iteration to lessen the impact on the amphitheater and surrounding area. Their father, Gary Crandall, owns all of the property south of the Newpark Hotel, including the amphitheater, obelisk and surrounding property.
Matthew Crandall said on Wednesday they intended to construct a commercial building at the site because it would have been more profitable. He said a commercial building would have been much larger in footprint, overtaking the space that is used for outdoor summer concerts. But, he said market conditions forced them to pursue a residential project instead.
"Newpark did fail and that's why it went to foreclosure," he said. "When we purchased the property, there were four tenants. But, since then we have significantly increased occupancy. Our goal is to revitalize Newpark and I think we are doing that."
Crandall continued, "We chose the building's current design because it had less of an impact on Main Street and less shadows on the amphitheater." He said it would be more beneficial to construct the building as a two-story building. But, he added, "We wanted to keep the amphitheater for the community benefit and be good stewards."
Justin Keys, an attorney representing the developers, blamed part of the scrutiny the Crandalls are facing on the fact that the site is the last undeveloped parcel in Newpark.
"They are working with the conditions that exist and trying to minimize the impacts that will be made while still having a viable development," he said. It doesn't violate the terms of the development agreement and it does meet town center principles, which is why they designed it the way they did."
County Council member Chris Robinson said the issue is simple. He said the market conditions provision allowed the developer to switch from a commercial to a residential project because it created "as much flexibility as possible."
"I don't think seven townhomes at street level violate the principles of a true town center, nor do I believe that a shoddy process led to this conclusion," he said. "It has been an arduous process. There were multiple iterations of site plans, layouts and configurations. It didn't happen in the corner at midnight."
County Council member Glenn Wright agreed with Robinson. But, Councilor Doug Clyde requested time to review additional material and said he couldn't make a decision without comparing the project to the guidelines laid out in the Snyderville Basin General Plan.
Robinson attempted to make a motion, but County Council Chair Kim Carson said she wanted to respect Clyde's wishes, as well as Councilor Roger Armstrong's desire to be present for the vote. Armstrong left the meeting early on Wednesday.
County Council members agreed to revisit the topic at the next meeting when all members of the panel would be present.