Summit County Council adopts moderate-income housing plan |

Summit County Council adopts moderate-income housing plan

State-mandated plan intends to boost the affordable housing, but it may allow for high-density developments

The Summit County Council adopted a moderate-income housing plan on Monday as part of a controversial new law. The state is requiring county officials to create a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone in Kimball Junction within one third of a mile radius of the transit center.
Park Record file photo

Summit County officials may spend the next year readying a state-mandated plan intended to boost the community’s affordable housing supply, but the controversial law could also allow for high-density developments in Kimball Junction.

The Summit County Council on Monday adopted a moderate-income housing plan for the Snyderville Basin and the East Side after months of work, and just in time for the October deadline. The Utah Legislature passed House Bill 462 earlier this year, which requires counties to adopt a moderate-income housing plan by Oct. 1.

However, the nearly 4,000-line bill contained a late provision specifically targeting Summit County. Now, the law requires counties that created a transit district on or before Jan. 1, and have a hub in unincorporated areas serving more than four routes, to form a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone, or HTRZ, within one-third of a mile radius of that hub as a strategy in the moderate-income housing plan. In Summit County, that must be west of the Sheldon Richins Building in Kimball Junction.

The law states that 51% of the developable land inside the HTRZ must have residential uses and requires 10% of those units to be affordable. It also allows the density to be between 39 and 49 units per acre.

The county may have missed out on state money if it failed to meet the deadline. The County Council also debated excluding the HTRZ from the plan, but the state could have rejected the proposal and pulled its project funding.

The language is similar to the proposals from the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission and the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission. However, the East Side doesn’t have a transit hub so it is exempt from the HTRZ. Summit County planner Ray Milliner said during Monday’s meeting the East Side group tried to address the lack of infrastructures such as water and sewer in its plan.

“It doesn’t open the door to mass development on the East Side,” he said.

Eric Moxham, a founding member of Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City, urged the County Council to consider leaving the HTRZ out altogether. Kathy Mears echoed his comments.

Thomas Cooke, a member of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, spoke during the public comment portion to distance himself from the panel’s earlier positive recommendation.

The West Side’s Planning Commission forwarded a moderate-income housing plan with 10 strategies, but it included a condition of approval that the county examines the HTRZ element for its legality and future impact. Cooke said the request doesn’t capture the anxiety and concern commissioners felt about the HTRZ component. However, they were advised not to submit a plan without it, he said.

Bonnie Park, who is also a founding member of the responsible development group, said she fears the county will be “boxed in” by the Kimball Junction location. Park suggested the County Council submit the moderate-income housing plan without the HTRZ component. Then, she said officials could use the 90-day cure period to make it to the end of the year and the new legislative session.

State Representative Kera Birkeland, whose district includes portions of unincorporated Summit County, has filed a bill to repeal the provision in H.B. 462, which Park said may pass by then.

But Dave Thomas, the county’s chief civil deputy attorney, advised against it because funding could be put at risk.

“The problem with playing games with the Legislature is you generally get burned,” he told the County Council.

County Councilor Roger Armstrong questioned whether the county could argue the law is spot zoning, which happens when a parcel of land is singled out for different zoning laws than the areas surrounding it.

“One of the funniest things in the legislation, they didn’t just make it really precise, they designed it so it wouldn’t affect any other county later by saying ‘You have to have created your small transit district on or before Jan. 1, 2022.’ So, anybody who created a small transit district on Jan. 2, 2022 doesn’t have the same burden,” Armstrong said.

Thomas implied the Legislature will do what it wants, but he said the county is compliant with the statute by including the HTRZ in the plan – even if it isn’t acted on later. County Councilor Chris Robinson was hopeful officials could develop something to their liking.

Megan McKenna, who identified herself as a housing advocate with Mountainlands Community Housing Trust, was the only speaker who offered support for the moderate-income housing plan. She said keeping the HTRZ near the Kimball Junction Transit Center helps ensure people aren’t pushed out of the community because of a lack of housing.

Before making a decision on the moderate-income housing plan, Armstrong condemned the “corrupt actions” that forced the County Council to vote it in.

“If members of the Legislature had come here prior to the session, if the governor had come here prior to the session, to actually tour Summit County and see the public housing initiatives that we’ve enabled over the last five or six years and how they’re coming out of the ground, I think there might have been a very different, far more honest, conversation about it than was had,” he said.

With the plan adopted, public hearings must be held within one year to gather input about the criteria the county should consider in selecting the location of the HTRZ. County officials must then amend the General Plan to create the zone in the year after the public hearings are closed.

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