Summit County solicits public input on Tech Center proposal
First public hearing at the council level on Wednesday
The Summit County Council is set to receive public comment for the first time on a proposal that could reshape Kimball Junction, contemplating whether to allow developers to build essentially an entire new neighborhood in an area that is often derided as poorly planned and serves as the main gateway to Park City.
The council is the final authority on the proposal, barring an appeal to district court, and its agenda allows for a vote on the large-scale, mostly residential development proposal, but officials don’t expect this will be the last meeting on the subject.
Instead, the hearing will allow the public once again into the process — something that happened multiple times at the planning commission level.
The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 13, as the last item on the County Council’s agenda for the evening. The applicant and landowner, Dakota Pacific Real Estate, is scheduled to explain the proposal before the council opens the floor to the public.
The project entails dozens of new buildings — renderings show more than 30 — including apartment buildings, attached townhomes, offices and a hotel.
It would be built at the west side of Kimball Junction, south of Walmart, on land that is currently undeveloped.
The plan includes 1.6 million square feet of residential development, 300,000 of which is set aside for affordable housing.
The site is known as the Tech Center and governed by a development agreement that restricts what can be built there to mostly technology-related offices. The Skullcandy headquarters is one of the only businesses that cleared that hurdle and sits virtually alone in what officials hoped would be a large office park that would help diversify the area’s tourism-based economy.
Dakota Pacific is technically applying to loosen the development agreement restrictions on what planners refer to as the “uses” allowed on the land. Elected officials have expressed skepticism that the tech center concept will ever be built out, and the restrictive development agreement has essentially kept the land undeveloped.
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission forwarded a negative recommendation to the County Council in September, citing a lack of community benefits, not enough affordable housing and traffic concerns.
At the four Planning Commission public hearings, many members of the public appeared content to keep the agreement in place and the land mostly undeveloped.
But the developers see things differently.
“There’s no better place for density than this location,” said Jeff Gochnour, Dakota Pacific Real Estate director of development. “To take advantage of the existing transit center, to be right off of I-80 — if there’s any place you want density, it’s in a condensed space that, again, has access to an existing transit center. And so I just feel like if you’re going to build a project, this is the right place for this project.”
Toward the end of the Planning Commission public input process, a younger contingent of commenters — among them people who said they were young professionals looking to live in Summit County — voiced support for the housing proposal.
The county has a significant and growing housing shortage and skyrocketing home and property values. The county’s housing director and planning staffers have also expressed support for the proposal.
Opponents worry about the traffic the project will create on S.R. 224, a roadway that experts predict might fail before the middle of this decade.
While the developers say that the residential project they’re proposing creates less traffic than the office park originally envisioned there, it doesn’t appear likely the office park will materialize anytime soon, nor its predicted rush hour traffic.
County officials hope mass transit is the key to solving the traffic problem and are working to secure federal funding for a bus rapid transit system along S.R. 224.
The developers originally presented what they called aspirational plans to the Planning Commission that included an underground transit hub for the bus rapid transit project and a gondola gliding above the streets of the housing project.
Gochnour said in an interview Monday the developers are still open to those ideas, and would keep a gondola right-of-way open throughout the project. But the transit center, which would be on county-owned land, is not included in the proposal the county is evaluating.
Growth is coming to Summit County, officials say, and millions of square feet are entitled but unbuilt in the Snyderville Basin. The developers, as well as county staffers, say it makes sense to cluster the development in areas connected by mass transit surrounded by open space. Gochnour said the Dakota Pacific proposal is what the county said it wanted in the Kimball Junction Neighborhood Master Plan and added that such development might help prevent sprawl.
“The benefit of density on our site versus. … taking and spreading it out throughout the county — that’s just taking more people and putting them in their cars because they’re not next to a Walmart or a Smith’s or whatever it is, they’ve got to drive to that,” he said.
Officials have indicated that the council is unlikely to reach a final decision on Wednesday, and that county officials might work with the developers to negotiate specifics about the project before rendering a judgment.
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