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Talisker plans criticized

Empire Pass developer Talisker Corp. encountered neighborhood opposition Wednesday night as it tried to convince the Park City Planning Commission to allow a work force housing project in the upper reaches of Old Town.

There has been resistance for months, and the Planning Commission was not prepared to cast a vote on the Talisker application. The neighbors listed numerous reasons why they are leery of the location.

The developer wants to put a work force project at 100 Marsac Ave., close to a row of houses on the tightly packed street. Talisker has long searched for sites suitable for work force housing, and it needs to build the housing as part of the overall Empire Pass development deal between itself and the local government. City Hall requires large developers build the worker housing.

Talikser is considering a 12-unit project six houses and three duplexes on the Marsac Avenue land. The firm considered 20 units originally, and it has been reduced over the months.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to restart its talks about the project in late July.

Neighbors on Wednesday night were concerned with the designs of the housing, the number of units Talisker wants to build and how well the project will be landscaped.

Ruth Gezelius, who lives on Prospect Avenue, worried that the Talisker proposal has too many units. She called that stretch of Marsac Avenue "one of the least gentrified streets in the area" and said Talikser should be made to perform the landscaping. She argued the site is not a good location for development.

Others said there is too much construction in the immediate neighborhood and the Talisker project’s designs are generic.

Dennis Peterson, a Hillside Avenue resident, said the neighborhood has many unique-looking houses, but he said houses constructed recently look similar to each other. He wondered whether just one architect is designing houses in Old Town.

"Why do we have to cookie-cutter it," he told the Planning Commission.

Some Planning Commissioners said they want Talikser to remove more units from the project, with Julia Pettit, a panel member, saying she prefers the development be between eight and 10 units. She said she is worried about traffic and the way the project will fit in the neighborhood.

Talisker is aggressively pursuing work force housing projects this year, following several months after a well-publicized dispute between itself and City Hall. The local government determined the developer had not built the required work force housing on a proper schedule, prompting a tense round of discussions between the two sides. City Hall agreed to loosen the timeline for the housing.

Talisker is pursuing other work force projects as well. David Smith, the Talisker attorney who handles the firm’s negotiations with City Hall, acknowledged Wednesday the Marsac Avenue land is a "challenged site" for work force housing, but he added Talisker is under pressure to build its required housing.

The local government has long held that requiring work force housing is smart because it allows people of differing economic means to live in Park City, where the resort-driven housing market prices many rank-and-file workers out of the city. The proponents also say housing workers close to their jobs reduces traffic.

Neighbors, though, often worry about work force projects, citing traffic and the size of the developments.


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