Updated: Park City housing project appealed, quickly triggering procedural dispute
A critic of a City Hall housing development in Old Town filed an appeal of a Park City Planning Commission approval of the second phase of Woodside Park, triggering an unorthodox procedural move by the municipal government days later that itself was disputed.
The back-to-back maneuvers illustrate the suspense that oftentimes accompanies development in Old Town, long the most contentious of Park City’s neighborhoods. City Hall received the appeal late on Monday. Douglas Lee, whose family owns a house on Empire Avenue close to the development location, said the appeal covers the issues he broached at the Planning Commission level, including the project’s adherence to open space requirements, setback rules and historic-preservation guidelines.
Lee has been one of the prominent critics of the second phase of Woodside Park. Lee has maintained he supports City Hall’s overall housing efforts. He is concerned with the details of the project rather than the ideals underpinning the development and the broader municipal housing program.
“It’s a different body. It’s a different group.” Lee said about the appeal. “We hope they’ll have a more independent view.”
The project involves 58 units — a combination of townhouses and condominiums — stretching across the 1300 blocks of Empire Avenue, Woodside Avenue and Norfolk Avenue. The Planning Commission voted in favor of the development, which is an ambitious one as City Hall continues its aggressive housing efforts.
Mayor Andy Beerman and the Park City Council addressed the issue on Thursday evening, opting to put the appeal to a City Hall panel called the Board of Adjustment. The elected officials themselves typically would hear an appeal of a Planning Commission decision. In the case of the second phase of Woodside Park, the mayor and City Council opted for a separate process since it is a City Hall project. The elected officials removed themselves from the appeal process in order to eliminate the possibility of hearing a challenge to a municipal project that they have already endorsed by allowing staffers to press ahead with the development.
The elected officials had the option to send the appeal to the Board of Adjustment or to seat a three-person appeal panel. The Board of Adjustment is a standing City Hall panel that meets only when necessary to hear appeals on certain planning and zoning matters.
An attorney representing Lee, Nicole Deforge, just hours before the City Council meeting on Thursday submitted a correspondence to City Attorney Mark Harrington calling for the elected officials to put the appeal to a three-person panel rather than the Board of Adjustment. Deforge argued in the correspondence a three-person panel would “preserve the appearance of fairness in the appeal.”
“The Woodside project is a City-sponsored development and the Park City Board of Adjustment is a permanent, ongoing City board appointed by the City Council. The Board members must be reappointed by the (City Council) in order to remain on the panel at the end of their terms,” Deforge says in the correspondence. “In contrast, a special appeal panel appointed only for the purpose of the hearing the Woodside appeal would be a one-time panel and therefore not concerned about reappointment by the (City Council).”
She says a panel “would therefore not only help to ensure fair due process by avoiding that potential conflict of interest but certainly better preserve the appearance of fairness in the minds of the public.”
The mayor and City Council did not spend extensive time discussing the appeal before sending the matter to the Board of Adjustment. City Councilor Steve Joyce said the Board of Adjustment is designed to hear appeals like the one regarding the second phase of Woodside Park. Joyce said the decision to put the appeal to the Board of Adjustment was “about as clear-cut as it gets.”
The City Council received brief input about the second phase of Woodside Park as supporters of the project said the middle class is struggling with housing in Park City and the opposition to the project is promoting myths about the size of the project. Another speaker, though, worried about safety in the neighborhood with the traffic increases that would be associated with a development.
City Hall is pursuing a broad housing agenda with the goal of adding 800 units of housing priced at affordable or attainable levels by the end of 2026. The second phase of Woodside Park, at 58 units, is an important development in the efforts.
Leaders say workforce or otherwise restricted housing like the municipal projects cut commuter traffic and ensure socioeconomic diversity. The program is designed to assist those who are otherwise priced out of Park City’s resort-driven real estate market, the most expensive in the state.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.