Big changes might be coming for the Tech Center proposal as the County Council reopens development agreement
Subcommittees to meet with developer in coming weeks
Big changes might be coming to the proposal to build 1,100 new residential units in Kimball Junction, after the Summit County Council indicated Wednesday it would reopen the development agreement that governs the land and broaden the scope of its evaluation of the project.
County Council Chair Glenn Wright said in an interview the plan is to create subcommittees to address key issues and to meet frequently with developer Dakota Pacific Real Estate in coming weeks.
County staffers indicated there could be an agreement for the council to review in mid-March, though the process may extend well beyond that.
There might be an additional councilor the next time the Tech Center is added to an agenda, as County Councilor Chris Robinson is considering “unrecusing” himself from the process. He has voluntarily withdrawn from every council deliberation of the proposal following an exchange of basketball tickets earlier this year he deemed improper.
Dakota Pacific is seeking to build a residential neighborhood on the southwest portion of Kimball Junction on land that currently sits undeveloped near the Skullcandy headquarters. It includes 1,100 housing units, which would mostly be long-term rentals, an affordable housing component, a hotel and office space.
The development would require changing what is allowed to be built on the site, which is limited to technology-related uses by a 2008 development agreement. Councilors have indicated they will examine that agreement more broadly in coming weeks, opening the door to broader changes.
Public feedback on the proposal has been mixed since Dakota Pacific submitted the application in the summer of 2019, with a strong contingent that says the project would provide unnecessary density, snarl traffic and not contribute much by way of community benefits.
Another, seemingly younger, contingent has voiced support for the project and hopes that it would enable people to find a home in Summit County, which faces a significant and growing housing shortage and skyrocketing home values.
The developer indicated it would be open to changes, including possibly swapping some residential density for other uses, like offices.
“It’s been a long and thorough review process, to be sure,” said Jeff Gochnour, Dakota Pacific Real Estate director of development, in a prepared statement. “… As for potential changes to the project, we’ve made many throughout the review process to date, thanks to suggestions, ideas and requests from residents and other community stakeholders. We’ll continue to be open and willing to listen.”
Wright said the subcommittees would focus on traffic, sustainability, affordable housing and overall design. County councilors would not negotiate directly with developers, Wright said, to avoid the appearance of “contract zoning,” in which a government and developer agree to specific quid-pro-quos behind closed doors.
Instead, county staffers from the planning and legal departments will meet with the developers and then report back to the small subcommittees, which will likely include two county councilors each.
That will avoid a quorum of the council and allow the committees to meet without public scrutiny.
Opponents of the development plan have advised the County Council to continue to negotiate with the developers and try to extract more community benefits, which could include additional affordable housing, transit investments, open space commitments or other items.
Many have suggested that the biggest benefit of all would be leaving the land undeveloped, one possibly unintentional result of the strict development agreement.
Wright suggested an unconventional idea for a community benefit: using the developer’s clout at the state capitol to hasten a Utah Department of Transportation project to redesign the roads at Kimball Junction.
He has suggested the council bind the construction phases to the timing of the UDOT project, indicating the developers might be able to lobby for the project at the state Legislature. The project is many years away from construction and is not included in a UDOT list of planned expenditures.
“If they satisfy all of our desires, I think the next step will be to draw up the development agreement, get lawyers involved, make sure the Ts are crossed, Is are dotted, and then vote on it. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to happen,” Wright said. “… If all of us get our ‘yes characteristics’ then we’ll have a development. If we don’t then we won’t.”
Robinson mulls ‘unrecusal’
When Robinson moved to sign off from the council’s Zoom meeting as usual Wednesday ahead of the Dakota Pacific agenda item, County Councilor Roger Armstrong asked him to stay on.
Robinson had divulged in October that he had received Utah Jazz tickets from a principal with Dakota Pacific Real Estate and that, even though he’d reimbursed the firm for the tickets, he opted to recuse himself rather than risk tainting the process.
Armstrong asked the County Attorney’s Office to examine whether that move was necessary, and Wright reported Thursday the attorneys had determined Robinson’s recusal was not mandated by state statute.
Robinson owns hundreds of thousands of acres throughout the West and has experience developing land. His colleagues all supported the notion of him rejoining the deliberations, lauding his character as well as his experience in land-use matters.
He has apologized and expressed regret for taking the tickets, which had an unexpectedly large price tag. He received the call from the developers — with whom he has said he has a 20-year relationship — when he was traveling. He wasn’t able to use the tickets, but his children and their significant others attended a February Jazz game.
“For six tickets, the total was $4,416 or $736 per seat,” Robinson wrote in a message to The Park Record. “I love my kids, but that was crazy.”
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