Francis bike park visits could reach 15K, raising more concerns for homeowners
Homeowners call for a public hearing to discuss impacts of proposal
After spending $422 to access public records and combing through 84 documents with a combined 370 pages of information, a Francis homeowner has growing concerns about a bike park proposed at the end of his cul-de-sac.
Since learning about the proposal in March, Greg McNutt has been learning everything he can about the history of the project, including filing several Government Records Access and Management Act requests to review city records from 2010 to today. After reviewing the documents, McNutt reaffirmed the project is a bad idea.
On May 12, he brought his concerns before the Francis City Council to speak with leaders, who he said aren’t listening to homeowners in the Summit Haven Circle neighborhood, where the project is proposed.
“There’s no accountability here. I went through all 84 documents, I scanned them all and sent the bulk of them out to various neighbors who are coming onto my interest list – and these are neighbors that are going to be impacted here,” he said in an interview. “They’re pretty blown away by the fact that what they’re really planning here is much bigger than just a little city park.”
While McNutt said he hadn’t heard of the project until earlier this year, city officials say it’s been in the works since 2015. The 4.5-acre vacant lot, which was deeded to Francis in 1997 by Wild Willow Limited Company, was always going to become a park but the city didn’t have money for the project until recently.
Before the coronavirus pandemic started, former Francis Mayor Byron Ames and the City Council revamped discussions, which first occurred in 2015, about how the open space could be different from the city’s main park. They planned to put up a fence around the lot and create a quarter-mile walking trail around the perimeter. They would also build a pump track, which consists of a circuit of rollers and banked turns that allow bike riders to generate momentum through their mass rather than by pedaling, a restroom and a small parking lot.
City officials prioritized the project in 2021, when they considered tapping the county’s cultural tax grant that provides funding for local cultural nonprofits and recreation entities to fund the bike park, according to Francis city planner Katie Henneuse. Known as RAP, the program allows 0.1% of sales tax from goods sold in Summit County to be spent on arts and recreation opportunities.
In the grant application to the County Courthouse, city officials said the bike park would connect to existing and future trail systems and trail use has increased with the rise in popularity of mountain biking. They estimated the pump track would see up to 15,000 visits annually, primarily between May and October.
The number is alarming to McNutt, who said it’s too much for the quiet 12-lot subdivision bordering the project. He questioned if the facility’s parking lot was large enough to accommodate the traffic or if visitors, who would likely be coming from beyond the city limits, would park on the street.
McNutt said Francis is a small city, with no gas station, hotel or grocery store, and he feared the facility will come at the expense of residents living there while Kamas and Park City benefit from overnight visitors and restaurant patrons.
“This is more of a commercial venture as opposed to a city park in a town of 1,500 people. This kind of attraction will benefit surrounding towns, but the costs will be borne by the residents of Francis,” McNutt said. “This is anything but a park.”
In October of 2021, one month before Francis was awarded $292,000 in grant money, Francis officials were asked whether all the residents support the project because of how close the bike park is to several property lines, according to emails obtained in McNutt’s GRAMA request that he provided The Park Record.
Henneuse replied that the city had discussed options for the park with adjoining residents and found the bike park and walking path were the most popular options. She said the city hadn’t spoken with all the new residents, but they shouldn’t be surprised about how the land will be used. McNutt said he was unable to find records of public hearings to discuss the pump track and most discussions appeared to be general rather than about a specific idea.
In an email to The Park Record, Henneuse said the GRAMA request doesn’t capture conversations between elected officials, staffers and residents outside of public meetings and there are other documents related to the bike park McNutt hasn’t paid for.
Francis Mayor Jan Brussel declined to comment on whether the city made outside efforts to engage with homeowners or if the project was only discussed during open meetings. City officials said there’s support for the bike park among city residents and nonprofits.
“The city believes that many residents support this project, and that (McNutt’s) opinions regarding this park are not representative of the broader community,” the email from Henneuse said. “In addition, we have talked with many Francis residents in the last year that are supportive of the park.”
McNutt argues online comments show many residents were unaware of the proposed bike park until it received media coverage, which led to more support for the project. He said the city failed to have any new open dialogue with residents, in particular, those who live where the pump track is proposed.
He said he’s repeatedly asked city leaders to schedule a public hearing to give citizens the chance to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of the proposal but claimed they haven’t returned his messages. He said he’s unwilling to support the project until Francis officials engage in a conversation.
City officials said the property where the bike park is located has been zoned as a park for recreational activities since the current General Plan was developed around five years ago, which means a public hearing is not required.
Henneuse said the city is planning to hold a public hearing to discuss the park’s landscape plan and solicit input from residents on the landscaping design. A date has not been set as the final draft is not complete.
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