Project proposed at the former Colby School site rouses residents
Concerns over impacts raised at hearing
Residents in the three neighborhoods surrounding the former Colby School property along the east side of State Road 224 pleaded with the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission for nearly two hours on Valentine’s Day to deny the hotel project that is being proposed at the site.
On Tuesday, Feb. 14, nearly 20 people vehemently rejected the project before a standing-room only crowd at the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction. More than 50 people attended the hearing, with most opposing it. The item was listed as a public hearing and work session on the agenda. No official action was taken.
The current proposal represents a scaled-back version of the 55-room hotel project that was originally presented to the Basin Planning Commission last year. The conditional-use permit application is requesting approval for 39 rooms, three cabin-style rooms, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant, plus yoga and fitness studios. It will include the renovation of the existing building, in addition to the construction of an attached multi-use building, demolition of the small accessory buildings on the site and expansion of the existing parking area to accommodate 130 spaces.
Residents at the hearing raised concerns over the project’s potential impact on noise, traffic and lighting, among others. Most said they “aren’t against development here, just not of this size.” The Colby School is in a rural residential zone and is surrounded by the Park West Village, Brookside Estates and Two Creeks Ranch neighborhoods.
Jess Bost, a Park West Village resident whose property borders the Colby School parcel, said the former Snowed Inn and Colby School were historically “small and quaint.” Bost said the project, as it is proposed, cannot be mitigated and “allowing something this big, we feel, our enjoyment will go away.”
Bost said based on the size of the restaurant “this is not a hotel, it is an event resort.”
“It’s an unreasonable impact you are asking our neighborhood to bear,” Bost said. “We have a handwritten petition that represents 70 percent of the homeowners in the area and we have 191 signatures as of about 30 minutes before this meeting. We are not against development and we expect something to go there, but we want what was originally allowed under the 1985 approvals.”
The petition claims the proposal is in conflict with “established county policies regarding commercial development” in the Basin. It says the project is inconsistent with the General Plan’s goals “to maintain residential use on the east side of S.R. 224 and resort commercial density on the west side.”
Adam Smith, a Park West Village resident who signed the petition and attended the meeting, questioned his decision to build his home 20 years ago, saying “I didn’t know what I was getting in to.”
“This is one of the few great neighborhoods left,” Smith said. “I think the Colby School was a great neighbor, they were really nice and I had no complaints. But I lay in bed and I look right at the Colby School. I don’t think they can mitigate the impacts this will cause.
“I plead with you to do the right thing and keep the commercial growth on the Canyons side where it belongs. It doesn’t belong next to us,” he said.
One resident threatened to tie the property up in litigation demanding “mitigate or we will litigate” and another quipped “if the project doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”
In 2014, the former Colby School/Snowed Inn property was acquired by Emma Worsley and Julie McBroom. The native Australians have lived in Park City for more than five years and planned to develop the site as a wellness center. Summit County originally approved the Snowed Inn and related uses as a Class II development in August of 1985, according to a county staff report.
The 1998 Development Code that allowed for a change of use in the existing building from a hotel to a school and it operated as a school until 2008, the report states, adding “This project is unique, in that it is located in a mostly residential neighborhood and has an entitlement from a process that does no longer exist in the county Development Code.”
Joe Wrona, the attorney representing several homeowners on the issue, said it is the commission’s responsibility to determine whether the proposal is consistent with the uses that were authorized by the 1985 commission.
“If you are to assume for the sake of argument the 1985 permit is some kind of vested right, your job is to determine if the proposal in front of you now is consistent with the intent of the planning commission,” Wrona said.
Claudia McMullin, a former Summit County Council member who lives in Silver Creek, provided the only comment in support of the project, calling herself “a fan.”
“I’m a fan of a project being developed in accordance with their vested rights. I am not a fan of a building sitting vacant for eight years,” McMullin said. “It is vested back to 1987 and I don’t live in the neighborhood, but you cannot deny it because of every horror story that comes to mind. You can mitigate the reasonable impacts, but this is a vested right and I think it is beautifully designed project.”
After a three-hour discussion that lasted until almost 10 p.m., commissioners agreed to close the public hearing with the understanding that there may be another scheduled at a later date.
Chuck Klingenstein, a planning commissioner, said the commissioners have their work cut out for them. Klingenstein said there are several legal questions that must be answered before they can “even begin” to wade through the application and proposal.
“We are going to have a lot of work to do to try and sort this out because we are taking old 1985 code and its vagaries and applying it to our current development code,” Klingenstein said. “This is very challenging.”
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A new proposal to redevelop the Colby School calls for an eight-room bed-and-breakfast, a far cry from the 55-room hotel suggested as the owners first embarked on this process five years ago. Neighbors have indicated they will oppose the proposal.