Summit County confronts Promontory about employee housing
March 9, 2018
Summit County officials confronted representatives of Promontory Development last week about the status of the 37 employee housing units that are required under its development agreement.
Eastern Summit County Planning Commissioners and County Council members challenged Promontory to draft a plan within 30 days outlining a timeframe for building the remaining 35 units. Two units have already been constructed.
The development agreement necessitates that all employee housing be produced within a "reasonable time schedule to be approved by the county." Roughly 600 homes have been built in Promontory since 2001. Representatives estimated the total build-out – 1,600 homes – will be complete within about three more years.
"It's time for Promontory to step up," said Planning Commissioner Bill Wilde. "I think it's time for them to build the units."
A final site plan request last month for the third phase of construction on the Nicklaus Clubhouse at Promontory prompted last week's meeting. Promontory was seeking approval for construction of a conference center, which would include a banquet hall, spa, laundry facility and other support facilities. County staffers recommended approving the final plan.
Marion Wheaton, a planning commissioner, said the site plan was a trigger for the planning panel to inquire about employee housing because the addition could generate more employees.
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"The Planning Commission thinks they should be moving forward a little more expediently regarding employee housing," she said during the meeting.
Commissioners tabled the request to verify Promontory was still in compliance with the development agreement. However, the language in the agreement never specified a timeframe for the affordable units other than requiring them within a "reasonable" period.
"We have a sense of urgency to get something moving forward," said Tonja Hanson, planning commissioner. Rich Sonntag, who was Promontory's general manager for more than 15 years and is currently a member of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission, said the development should not be considered in default for not constructing the remaining units. Sonntag has recused himself from meetings in the past where an approval was requested. But, he participated in the discussion last week.
"At the time (2001), the East Side didn't have anything about employee housing," he said. "That was only in our plan because Promontory was originally in the Basin. Eastern end of the county had no interest in our building employee housing, so it's not as political correct as people want to think it is. I don't think anyone is remiss."
Sean Potter, general counsel for Promontory since July, said he was surprised by the tone of the conversation last week. He said Promontory's development agreement was amended in 2007 and again in 2016 to specify the employee housing units would be built in South Point, the southernmost 800 acres of Promontory.
South Point is described as a geographical area within Promontory. It operated under the development's specially planned area until 2016 when the development agreement was amended to sever South Point from the rest of Promontory and create a specially planned area that would govern South Point under a separate agreement with the county, Potter said. But, it stipulated that the employee housing units would remain in South Point.
A proposal was submitted to the Planning Commission in 2017 to construct 190,000 square feet of commercial space, 350 hotel rooms and 1,020 residential units, including more than 430 workforce housing units, in South Point. Promontory's required affordable housing units were included in the proposal. The Planning Commission rejected the application.
"In that proposal it showed the required employee housing and included more," Potter said. 'In my mind, it was always going to be in South Point, and we had implicitly agreed to the timing of it. There is no infrastructure there so we knew it would take a little more time.
"All of sudden now we (county) say we don't want to do that anymore?" he added. "That's what caught me by surprise. To say further that we won't approve an otherwise approvable final site plan and will give you 30 days to come up with a plan was difficult."
Potter agreed to draft a plan within the next 30 days. However, he pointed out that the Planning Commission's rejection of the South Point proposal complicates the matter because the development agreement put the housing there. He added, "It is still Promontory's obligation to construct those units, but the density is in South Point."
"This is a very important issue and needs to be handled appropriately," he said. "We want to do it the right way. I don't know if we can do a building plan with the South Point submittal because there was a fair amount of planning that went into it. There are a lot of good ways to solve this issue and we just have to figure out the best."
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