Summit County Council delays vote on disputed project following marathon public hearing
Elected officials hear from approximately 80 people, mostly in opposition to Tech Center proposal
For The Park Record
After hearing nearly five hours of public comment at a Wednesday night meeting, Summit County Council members decided to delay a decision on whether to approve a proposed large-scale residential and office development that would be built in the southwest corner of Kimball Junction at the site of the Tech Center.
The council members said they want more time to review data about the project and their notes from the meeting.
Dakota Pacific Real Estate — which wants to build 1,100 homes, a hotel, office buildings and commercial space on 58 acres that it owns at the site — is asking the County Council for a change in the land uses allowed there. A 2008 development agreement currently limits what can be built on the property, which is west of S.R. 224 and south of Walmart, to mostly tech-related office buildings.
If the council votes against changing the allowable land uses at the Tech Center, the current agreement will remain in place.
Opponents say the development would negatively impact an already congested area by adding traffic and possibly thousands of new residents. They have flooded the council with emails objecting to amending the development agreement and started a petition on charge.org that has gotten nearly 4,000 signatures.
The opponents have also formed a group, called Friends of Summit County for Responsible Development, to fight the project. The group organized a large outdoor rally prior to Wednesday’s meeting.
Supporters counter that the affordable housing units included in the development would allow more people who work in the Park City area to also live there. In addition, they say the project could ultimately lead to fixes for the traffic issues in Kimball Junction.
The council met at the Newpark Resort conference center to accommodate in-person attendees, but the venue reached capacity before the meeting started and some were turned away. People also could participate online and at least 557 joined the session on Zoom.
About 80 people spoke, most of them in opposition to the project.
Attorney James Anderson, who represents Friends of Summit County for Responsible Development, said the Snyderville Basin General Plan prohibits allowing additional residential units until existing entitlements are significantly exhausted. The plan states a developer seeking new entitlements must demonstrate that their project includes a “compelling countervailing public interest.”
“While the developer has the right to construct more commercial space, that’s not the same impact as residential,” Anderson said. “Commercial units as compared to residential units have a significantly lower impact on traffic and emergency services and little to no impact on health care and educational services.”
He said if the council approves the amended development agreement, “we are prepared to go forward with a referendum to have this rejected by the voters and all other legal actions available.”
Some were concerned about the environmental impact. One commenter said the Rockport Reservoir, which provides a large percentage of the water used in the area, is 70% empty.
“Even if the drought does subside and we have a record snowfall this year, the truth is our unprecedented growth has already paced what Mother Nature can provide to this high desert environment,” he said. “The land simply cannot sustain this many people. We are living on borrowed time.”
Marlene Peacock told council members they could face a political backlash.
“Some of you will not be seeking reelection, but if you vote yes on this project, I’m wondering if you want that to be your legacy,” she said. “All of the good work that you will have done on the council will be overshadowed by your vote for a project that clearly the community doesn’t want or need. For those of you who are seeking reelection, just keep in mind that the ballot box is a reflection of the people’s voice and there may be consequences to your behavior. So, take a stand, step back and just say no to Dakota Pacific.”
But some urged a yes vote for the project, including a businessman who said it’s difficult to find employees for any type of business in the current climate.
“I feel that it will be beneficial to provide the workforce a place to live locally and do so affordably,” he said.
And Shellie Barrus, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Summit and Wasatch Counties, said development will take place on the property no matter what and the project could address the significant shortfall of affordable housing in the area.
Council member Roger Armstrong, who has said the development would lead to more sprawl, told the crowd that “many, many, many of the issues that you expressed tonight against the project, I’ve been trying to articulate in various ways.”
“I’m still not for this,” he said. “I haven’t been for this for much of the discussion.”
“If you think about it like a layer cake, where you have a bunch of powdered sugar on the bottom and three inches of cream cheese frosting on top of it, it’s going to tip on its side – and that’s a lot like an avalanche,” Kelly said.
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