The Park Record editorial, August 4-6, 2010 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, August 4-6, 2010

Vested rights don't give developers carte blanche

In the 1990s the wolves were at Summit County’s door — not the furry kind currently accused of creating mayhem on ranches around Coalville, but the button-down-collar kind carrying briefcases full of legal documents. Park City and the Snyderville area had suddenly become hot property and developers from all over the country were anxious to get in on the action. But residents who had already staked their claims to the sage-covered hills and open vistas did not want to find themselves hemmed in by crowded suburbs. So they made their elected officials promise to bolt the barn door shut.

With a clear mandate from their constituents, the commissioners went through a painstaking process of updating the county’s land-management and developments codes. They set aside limited commercial zones, created equations to balance density and community amenities, and added incentives to preserve open space. But that was just the beginning of the battle. Nearly two dozen landowners and their development partners claimed the revised development code violated their property rights. And so began the two-year-long legal process of hammering out compromises and amendments for each case.

Though the current economic slump has tempered the pressure, local elected officials both city and county still face demands from landowners who claim to have previously been accorded development rights. In many cases those early agreements predate existing codes, and more importantly, do not take into account existing infrastructure.

The Treasure development which could add as much as a million square feet of development above Park City’s Old Town is one example. This week’s debate over the proposed 1,100-unit Silver Creek Village Center along U.S. 40 is another. Both developers cite historic approvals as justification for the number of units they hope to build, and in these slow economic times those projects may look more appealing than they would during a building boom.

But we would urge today’s commissioners and council members to take their cue from their predecessors. It is a sure bet that despite the legal challenges, the long public hearings and interminable negotiation, those veteran public servants do not regret having held the line in the Basin.