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Park City and Summit County Councils outline obligations to affordable housing

Rare meeting highlights joint effort to tackle issue

Summit County and Park City leaders say they recognize that there is an affordable housing deficit that is growing at an increasing rate throughout the region. On Tuesday, they reiterated their commitment to address it together.

“We are constantly running up against the problem of increasing jobs and the housing availability ratio,” said Pat Putt, Summit County community development director. “In the county, we don’t have a real definitive action plan for affordable housing. We have an obligation through our development code, but, in terms of a defined strategy of where we are going to be, that does not exist at the moment.”

At the meeting, elected officials showed a willingness to collaborate on a five-year joint affordable housing plan during a rare meeting between the Summit County and Park City Councils. Both governments have existing obligations to provide affordable housing, but face several obstacles, including a lack of or limited zoning densities and public misconceptions.

During the meeting, county councilors and staffers admitted Park City is “far ahead” in addressing the issue and showed an urgency to catch up.

“I would love to tell you we have a discrete plan and have funding sources lined up,” said Roger Armstrong, County Council chair. “It is something that I think has crept up on us and we are really just starting to focus on this. We know that we need it … As we look to our strategic goals for the next two years coming up, we have talked about the fact that we have to raise the importance of affordable housing to a new level.”

Armstrong said he supports the idea of a joint affordable housing plan, adding “it worked well for transportation.” Both governments worked closely to support the two sales tax initiatives that voters recently approved to fund transportation-related projects.

“We struggled with the basics of what is the problem with transportation and what do we need to do to start making things better, and then we started building from there,” Armstrong said. “I think we will have to sit down and identify with some specificity in a way that leads to solutions. It’s time to do that.”

During the meeting, county staffers suggested locations throughout the Snyderville Basin as potential sites for affordable housing projects, including the Cline-Dahle parcel, areas of Silver Creek and along Bitner and Rasmussen roads.

Earlier this year, the county entered a purchase option on 30 acres of land in Jeremy Ranch, known as the Cline-Dahle parcel, as a potential location to provide affordable housing. It is located on Rasmussen Road near Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and the Summit Center Commerce Park. The option is open until January 2017.

Chris Robinson, a County Council member, said while the city has been more proactive, the county has, instead, relied on the marketplace.

“I think the time has come where we need to do that, and Cline Dahle is one potential place, but there are likely others,” Robinson said. “These are regional problems. I think we know what the problems are, we just need to roll up our sleeves now.”

Rhoda Stauffer, Park City’s affordable housing project manager, said the city is currently taking the steps to propose a new affordable housing overlay zone. Stauffer also encouraged the city to complete the acquisition of The Yard on Kearns Boulevard to start the entitlement process for housing and transportation.

“For the city and what we are doing, it looks familiar to what is being suggested to the County Council,” Stauffer said. “Our city staff is excited about the thought of joining the county to create an affordable housing plan.”

Andy Beerman, a City Council member, said there won’t be a quick fix “to solve all our affordable housing problems.”

“Both the city and the county now have development requirements that include affordable housing requirements, but it’s hard to keep up with,” Beerman said. “Every time we do a development we seem to fall further and further behind. We are losing ground and we have to backfill. But, we at the city have created an actual fund where the city will subsidize affordable housing.”

Park City Mayor Jack Thomas said he is “very supportive of this endeavor.” He said both governments face challenges in dealing with zoning and density, but “this is the beginning of that discussion.”

Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, said he was encouraged to see the two councils meeting together to establish a commitment to addressing affordable housing. Loomis suggested including Wasatch County officials in the conversation. He said “they are aware it is a regional need and have reached out to us.”

“For the first time in the last year there is a commitment and a vision so we can do something about this,” Loomis said. “They (elected officials and staff) have taken the initiative and understands what the needs are and what can be done.”


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