Planning panel focuses on Promontory’s workforce housing obligation
May 23, 2018
Members of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission are accusing Promontory Development of avoiding its obligation to provide income-restricted housing for more than 15 years.
The planning panel refused to forward a positive recommendation last week to the county manager for the final expansion of the Promontory Nicklaus Clubhouse. Planning Commissioner Rich Sonntag, who was Promontory's general manager for more than 15 years, recused himself from the discussion.
When Summit County received a final site plan request in February for the third phase of construction of a conference center at the clubhouse, which would include a banquet hall, spa, laundry facility and other support facilities, it spurred a conversation about employee housing. Commissioners worried the expanded facility would draw additional employees. Promontory claims only about five full-time employees will be added.
Planning Commissioners, Summit County Council members and representatives of Promontory met in March to discuss the status of 35 remaining employee housing units that are required under Promontory's 2001 development agreement. Planning Commissioners and County Council members challenged Promontory to draft a housing plan within 45 days that would outline a timeframe for building the units.
The developer sent the county a letter in early April requesting a decision on the conference center, regardless of the status of the housing. As of May 17, a housing plan had not been created.
"It does feel like it is being kicked down the road," said Planning Commissioner Amy Rydalch at last week's meeting. "At this point, I do feel like they have an obligation to get it sorted out."
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The development agreement calls for 37 units of restricted employee housing to be built within a "reasonable time scheduled to be approved by the county." Two units have been built, while roughly 600 homes have been constructed in Promontory. The total build-out of the development is estimated to be finished in about three years.
Promontory's development agreement was amended in 2016 to transfer the employee housing unit obligation to South Point, the southernmost 800 acres of Promontory. South Point operates under a separate development agreement with the county.
Sean Potter, general counsel for Promontory, said a South Point development proposal that would include Promontory's work force housing units is still moving forward. However, the Planning Commission rejected a proposal in 2017 to construct 190,000 square feet of commercial space, 350 hotel rooms and 1,020 residential units, including more than 430 work force housing units and Promontory's required units.
Potter asked Planning Commissioners for more time to complete the housing plan. He added, "We want to do it the right way."
"Holding another project hostage to get a plan doesn't seem like the right thing to do," he said to commissioners.
County staffers originally suggested the planning panel positively recommend the project. But, the planning department staff report prepared in anticipation of last week's meeting said the clubhouse expansion did not meet the requirements of the development agreement or East Side Development Code and suggested a negative recommendation. "We have been trying to work in good faith toward a plan and were under the impression that Promontory was working on that," said Helen Strachan, deputy county attorney, during the meeting. "That's all the development agreement requires. We were just looking for something in writing that gave us an idea as to when this housing would be built. Something that could give us assurances that this obligation would be met. But, there are still so many unknowns with South Point."
Planning Commissioners maintain that Promontory is still the party responsible for creating a plan and ensuring the housing requirement is met, even if it is built in South Point.
"They need to do it and they need to be the ones that step up and make a plan and say, 'We are going to do it," said Bill Wilde, East Side Planning Commission."
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