Tom Clyde: Bad parking is better than none at all
The news that an agreement has been reached to sell the parking lots at Park City Mountain Resort signifies big changes in town.
Bad as the parking situation was this year (and it was really stinking awful despite better management), it’s nothing compared to the parking lots being gone. You had to get there an hour early to get parked, but if you did, there was an actual parking lot there to park in.
The terms of the development agreement will require the hotel developer to replace the existing parking, as well as build additional parking for the new development that will be built on top of it. In theory, when it’s all done, we should be no worse off. If the hotel guests don’t rent cars, and the employees who run the place arrive by teleportation, there might even be more parking available. All of that will get worked out in the details of the approval.
The approval is more than 20 years old now and didn’t anticipate the world we live in now. The population of the Wasatch Front has almost doubled. A higher percentage of employees used to find housing in town. There were fewer businesses back then, and the total number of employees needed to run the town was fewer. So there will be lots to work out. With any luck, that can happen more efficiently than the generation-long dispute with the Treasure Hill people.
The big question is, what happens during the construction? It would be impossible to close the lifts in April and have a finished parking structure open for business in December. That just won’t happen. There’s a lot of digging to be done. That will be difficult when things dry out. I don’t know how they excavate that area in the spring with the snowmelt flowing on the surface and the ground water flowing below. So once they get started, there will be at least one ski season when the parking is gone. We can’t all park at Fresh Market.
Deer Valley has the same issue with their parking lots, only the ground water situation there might be even more challenging. For a while, it sounded like they were putting development of the parking lots on hold while the Mayflower project on U.S. 40 gets built. Mayflower got their final approvals from Wasatch County, then, as Mayflower has done for nearly 40 years, it has gone quiet again. I don’t know where things stand between Deer Valley and Mayflower’s owner at the moment, but I have heard that Deer Valley’s new owners are now taking another look at the parking lot development.
So there’s the potential that both resorts’ parking lots could be temporarily out of service for construction at the same time. Won’t that be special. The City has the dream that we will all become enthusiastic bus riders. For those who arrive in the area by car, the plan is some kind of park-and-ride system where we park in Timbuktu and ride the bus into town. That’s pretty typical of other big ski resorts. It’s just new to Park City, where we have been spoiled by the ability to park almost next to the snow since the resorts opened. That’s about to change.
Where do we put ugly satellite parking lots for 1,500 cars, and who should pay to build it? There is the County’s lot at Ecker Hill. The City’s lot on the tailings pond couldn’t be in a worse place, but they are looking at doing something more useful at Quinns Junction. But I’m trying to get my head around shuttling several thousand skiers from park-and-ride lots to the two resort bases between 8 and 9 in the morning, and then getting them back to their cars in the afternoon. That’s a whole lot of buses, or a whole lot of waiting in line for the next bus, or probably a lot of both. It worked during the Olympics—with a fleet of several hundred buses available running every 3 or 4 minutes from the lot on Highway 40. We shouldn’t expect that level of service.
When the parking garages are finished and open for business, it’s reasonable to assume that they won’t be free. When you deal with excavation, foundations, ramps, elevators, fire sprinklers, lights, ventilation, etc., parking structures are expensive. A friend in the construction business told me once that the only cost difference between the parking in the basement and the hotel rooms upstairs is the carpet. That’s an exaggeration, but not by much. The money to build and maintain those has to come from somewhere, which realistically means paid parking in the garages. It’s not really fair to add that cost to the price of lunch.
This is a change that has been scheduled for 30 years, and it will still take us all by surprise.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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In another case, a 30-year-old Park City man pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.