‘Square peg in a round hole.’ Neighbors say proposed apartment complex doesn’t belong.

Proposed project on Highland Drive includes 410 units, many affordable

Developers are proposing to build an apartment complex with 410 housing units spread between 27 buildings on the semi-circle of land between Highland Drive and the Interstate 80-U.S. 40 interchange.
Courtesy of Colbreen PC LLC

The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission heard in no uncertain terms the overwhelming public opposition to allowing a proposed large apartment complex near the Highland Estates neighborhood.

The nearly 50 commenters who spoke to oppose the project during a hearing Tuesday night dwarfed in number the handful who supported it.

They used words and phrases like “horrific,” “appalled,” “shoehorned,” “atrocious,” “square peg in a round hole” and “hard no.”

Planning commissioners voted to pause discussions after the hearing and indicated they would resume talks at the commission’s next meeting March 9.

The proposal calls for 410 housing units spread across 27 buildings on a 41-acre wedge of land southwest of the Interstate 80-U.S. 40 interchange. It is directly across Highland Drive from the Highland Estates subdivision.

The most common concern voiced by members of the public was traffic congestion, with the apartment complex anticipated to add thousands of vehicle trips per day onto a two-lane road neighbors said was already challenged by too many vehicles driving too fast.

Other concerns included the apartment complex’s impacts on the neighborhood’s water supply, an elk herd that visits the proposed site and infrastructure like roads and schools. Neighbors also worried that it would overcrowd the nearby Round Valley trail system and bring increased crime and light pollution.

Developers hope the project’s affordable housing component, with plans for lower priced apartments than virtually any other development in the area, will convince planning commissioners that the project provides enough of a public benefit to warrant its approval.

Most commenters Tuesday did not see things that way.

“What are they whispering in your ear? They’re whispering ‘affordable housing,'” said Kathy Apostolakos, who spoke against the proposal. “… Why are we even talking about this? Why are we using your time when you have better things to do, about talking about something that in no way fits here, except a money-grubbing developer wants to do this. And we’ve watched this over and over and over.”

Most did not dispute the area’s affordable housing shortage, but questioned why a large-scale complex should be built across the street from their neighborhood.

Some indicated their support for affordable housing projects in general, but opposed this specific proposal. One woman said she hoped the Highland Estates neighbors’ voices carried the same weight as those belonging to the owners of multi-million dollar homes located in other neighborhoods.

“They’re not putting affordable housing units next to them,” said the woman, who identified herself as Melissa Sorenson.

A handful of opponents indicated that they had worked hard for the home they purchased and didn’t want their property devalued by an apartment complex across the street. They said their home’s equity was akin to their retirement savings.

The 55 public comments might have been a record, Planning Commission Chair Ryan Dickey said, with the hearing lasting more than three hours, stretching to just past 10 p.m.

The vast majority of comments discussed traffic congestion. A preliminary traffic report submitted by the developer indicated that Highland Drive had 2,800 daily vehicle trips, but Commissioner Thomas Cooke said that was well short of the county engineer’s estimate.

Many neighbors said it is hard to pull out onto the two-lane road, which can serve as a cut-through from Kimball Junction to U.S. 40.

One man who spoke in favor of the development called it the smartest one he’d seen, and indicated he was involved in the nearby Silver Creek Village development. Other proponents — one who identified himself as working in construction, another a teacher — said they would like to live in Summit County, but can’t afford to.

Other detractors asked why it was up to them to “subsidize” the area’s affordable housing, a problem they viewed as being created largely by the ski resorts. A few suggested that the resorts and other employers should increase the wages they pay employees.

The project has received letters of support from a few local small business owners who highlighted the challenge of hiring workers.

After the hearing ended, Commissioner Christopher Conabee, the newest person to join the commission, advocated finishing the discussion that evening so the developer wouldn’t have to return for another meeting if it wasn’t warranted. Commissioner Crystal Simons was absent, while the rest of the commission voted to continue the discussion another day.

The Summit County Council will have the final say on the proposal, barring an appeal to district court.

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