Planning Commissioners talk affordable housing
September 25, 2015
To ensure the affordable housing discussion continues, Park City and Snyderville Basin planning commissioners have agreed to meet again.
Tuesday, in the first joint meeting between the two commissions in several years, about 30 minutes was spent on the issue of affordable housing. Commissioners also addressed transportation and development pressures.
"We didn’t have a lot of time to really delve into a whole lot of solutions," said Adam Strachan, Park City Planning Commission chair. "The biggest thing I heard from them, and us, was that for both commissions it is a priority."
Commissioners agreed to start holding joint meetings on a quarterly basis and identified affordable housing as the priority issue for the first meeting, which has not yet been scheduled.
"What we want to do is work with the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission and make sure we are moving at the same pace and are, hopefully, not going to move independently on these important issues," Strachan said. "Going forward, we will have some consistency between us and some communication between us so we are not doing something that steps on their toes and they’re not doing something that steps on ours."
Most of Tuesday’s conversation focused on what could be done at the commission level to mitigate the shortage and how the two commissions should move forward on similar policies to promote affordable housing.
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Bruce Erickson, serving as Park City’s interim planning director, was one of several officials at the meeting, including City Manager Diane Foster.
When addressing the commissioners, Erickson said the planning commissions are "ground zero for implementing policy" that could affect the issue.
"We really need to look at our General Plans," Erickson testified. "We would consider doing that much if that’s what it took to solve the problem on an equal platform between the two jurisdictions because we aren’t interesting in you pushing a certain income level our way or us doing the same to you."
Commissioners heard testimony from Scott Loomis, executive director of Mountainlands Community Housing Trust in Park City , about the serious effects of the housing shortcomings.
"Attainable housing is a huge need for our working class people that are under 60 percent of the median income," Loomis said.
Loomis emphasized to commissioners how some of the responsibility to address the shortage of affordable housing, specifically seasonal options for a younger demographic, should fall on employers.
"There is nothing the city and the county can do in their code other than require them to provide onsite or seasonal housing," Loomis said.
Officials referred to the recently approved Canyon Corners project as an example of how a developer could be required to provide housing as part of a development agreement. The Canyon Corners development will include a Whole Foods Market and 20 on-site affordable housing units above 18,000 square feet of commercial space on Landmark Drive.
"One of the success stories in that is that there probably could have been a legitimate argument that they didn’t have to do the affordable housing," said Pat Putt, Summit County development director. "The developer was initially resistant to the idea, but after a long series of discussion they saw the opportunity that was available there."
Steve Joyce, Park City planning commissioner, said its evident City Hall has made affordable housing a top priority and has a "big bucket of money" to throw at it. City Hall recently announced plans to organize a Blue Ribbon Housing Commission to address housing in Park City. The panel will be open only to Park City residents.
In an interview with The Park Record, Chuck Klingenstein, a Snyderville Basin commissioner, said the county doesn’t have the same resources City Hall does.
"The city has put together a pretty big chunk of change and the beauty is, if you leverage it correctly, you can achieve a lot," Klingenstein said. "But planning commissions are also incredible resources and the councils should be using us more to focus on these issues and not just on General Plans and development codes."
Klingenstein questioned whether the county needs to form a committee similar to the city’s Blue Ribbon commission, adding "it’s worth a discussion."
"These are all issues we have struggled with over the years and it’s just getting more complicated and more challenging," he said. "We are looking more and more at these urban nodes and how we can fill them in and looking at ways to transfer density. We have a big job in front of us and it’s not going away. We have seen the enemy and he is us."