Tech Center public hearing shows some are eager for housing at Kimball Junction
For the first time, a meaningful portion of public comment regarding the proposed development at Kimball Junction was positive during a hearing Tuesday night.
Developer Dakota Pacific Real Estate is proposing a mixed-use neighborhood on undeveloped land south of Walmart that is zoned for technology uses. The plan encompasses roughly 1.6 million square feet of business and residential development, including 335,000 square feet set aside for 306 affordable housing units.
About 30 people commented and more than 100 attended the virtual Snyderville Basin Planning Commission meeting, according to county technology staffers. A previous public hearing had to be rescheduled after the number of attendees overwhelmed the county’s Zoom capability.
The Planning Commission did not forward a recommendation to the Summit County Council and is not expected to do so until at least early September. The County Council is the final land-use authority on the matter, barring an appeal to the courts.
The developer is seeking to amend a 2008 development agreement that imposes strict requirements on what sort of development can be put on the site, essentially limiting it to technology-related businesses and support uses.
The commission has relatively broad latitude to determine whether the project benefits the community, which is a deviation from its normal task of determining whether an application strictly adheres to the development code and general plan.
Last August, developers submitted an application that included “aspirational” elements that have since been removed, like a below-grade bus rapid transit hub and gondola connections to the Utah Olympic Park and across S.R. 224.
At the meeting Tuesday, the developer offered its most detailed presentation of a revised application to date that included renderings from a first-person point of view of what it would look like to walk past a planned climbing wall, community garden or amphitheater-like gathering space. The developer also stressed that it is keeping the door open for the possibility of a gondola and transit hub, but acknowledged it would take partnership from multiple stakeholders. Presenters stressed the planned community’s walkability and modern planning characteristics, including pocket parks, trails and centralized parking.
Commenters, even detractors of the plan, called the presentation “slick” and impressive, but urged the commission not to be swayed.
Commissioners have appeared largely opposed to the plan, though Commissioner Crystal Simons has indicated support, and several have indicated support for individual components of the plan, like those that address affordable housing and transit issues.
Public opposition has been consistent in previous rounds of public comment, with nearly unanimous disapproval from a largely older cohort of commenters who seemed to represent the generation of leaders that inked the Tech Center development agreement in 2008.
They have slammed the proposal as being too big, causing too much traffic and flying in the face of a community consensus toward slowing development and preserving open space.
Notable members include former county commissioners Sally Elliott and Bob Richer.
“I don’t think we need Murray in the mountains,” said Myles Rademan, a longtime Park City resident and current Park City Leadership coordinator. “I think that’s exactly what the citizens don’t want.”
But at Tuesday’s hearing, a new generation seemed to add its voice to the conversation, exemplified by commenters that included a younger teacher, a small business owner and a Park City resident and community activist, who each said that affordable housing was sorely needed in the area. Others added that the Tech Center plan had failed, with high-paying jobs failing to materialize and those kinds of businesses instead locating in the Wasatch Front. Furthermore, some said, the development agreement no longer adheres to the stated goals for developing Kimball Junction, like its concentration of surface parking lots.
Unusually, county staffers also indicated support for the project, among them Regional Transportation Planning Director Caroline Rodriguez, Economic and Housing Director Jeff Jones and planner Kirsten Whetstone.
None outright endorsed the project, but their comments indicated that the project satisfies goals specific to their fields of expertise, including improving transit connections; adding affordable and rental housing units; and hewing to neighborhood and regional plans, respectively.
The proposal is scheduled to return to the Planning Commission for a transit-specific conversation Aug. 25, during which there will be additional public comment, as well as at a Sept. 8 meeting at which staff plans to present its recommendation to the commission.
Tuesday’s hearing included voluminous written comment in addition to the spoken contributions, including dozens of form comments generated from a public outreach website set up by the developer. Combined, it appeared as though comments in favor of the project outweighed those against, but the split was roughly even.
Commissioner Thomas Cooke called the form comments “the antithesis of genuine community involvement,” though he noted the challenges the developer faced in holding listening sessions during the pandemic.
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