Woodward Park City’s evening lights draw Summit County Council’s eye
Drivers passing Woodward Park City at night on Interstate 80 can sometimes catch a glimpse of riders throwing themselves in the air and spinning every which way, an exciting sight that can serve as a potent distraction from the road.
But residents in nearby Jeremy Ranch don’t have the luxury of zooming by the action-sports venue at 70 mph, and its powerful lights illuminate the sky — and in some cases, they say, their homes — well into the evening.
Jeffrey Louden, a Hidden Cove resident, says he doesn’t have it as bad as some of his neighbors, but about half of his yard is bathed in light even after the sun goes down.
“The issue is light pollution,” Louden said. “People who have homes here on Northcove Drive don’t even have to have their lights on, the light is so bright coming from Woodward.”
The issue drew the attention of the Summit County Council at its meeting Wednesday, with councilors acknowledging the problem and saying the lighting situation is not what they intended when they signed off on the venue in 2018 after residents appealed an earlier approval.
“It’s not just a little bit, it’s like seriously illuminated,” Councilor Chris Robinson said. “This thing, you could probably see it from space.”
The county has received numerous complaints, officials said, but Woodward Park City is operating in full compliance with its permit, leaving the county with little recourse.
County staff confirmed the venue was in compliance after recently investigating reported code violations, County Manager Tom Fisher said. There were some minor issues, Council Chair Doug Clyde said, but they had been remedied.
That leaves the county — and residents — relying on Woodward Park City to change the lighting of its own accord.
Already, neighbors report the venue is shutting down the lights closer to 8 p.m., its stated closing time, rather than leaving them on until 10 p.m., as is allowed under its conditional use permit.
And Woodward’s general manager, Shaydar Edelmann, wrote in an email to neighbors that the company has taken extra steps to respond to their concerns.
“The operating lights on our snowmaking machines have now been turned off, except for when snowmakers are directly at a machine,” Edelmann wrote. “We have also reduced the volume on the chair lift start up warning alarm at the request of neighbors.”
When contacted by The Park Record, Edelmann declined to comment further.
The conditional use permit was initially granted by the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission in January 2018. After residents appealed that decision, the County Council took over as the land-use authority and upheld the decision, but on different grounds. It also attached further conditions of approval, including some regarding lighting.
The council placed restrictions on the height of the light poles, the time when the lights could operate, and required the lights be directional and that Woodward abide by the county’s existing lighting regulations. Edelmann wrote in the email that the lights are “internally glare controlled and directionally aimed, in most cases at 25 (degrees) down.”
Many of the homes are actually below the lights themselves, and while the LED lightbulbs have individual shrouding, the light travels across the Interstate. That is in addition to the light that’s bouncing off the snow, a surface that is, as Clyde put it, nearly 100% reflective
Several of the councilors indicated the situation is an “unintended consequence” of Woodward’s approval and that they would have weighed the issue more heavily if they had a chance to do it over.
Dave Thomas, the county’s chief deputy civil attorney, said that the county does not have the ability to revisit Woodward’s conditional use permit, and that if lighting ordinances are passed after the fact, they would not be enforceable if they are inconsistent with the permit.
Clyde, however, indicated that there is a small chance the county could pass an ordinance governing average illumination, but that it would be complicated.
Clyde said he wanted to meet again with Woodward representatives and county staff to stress the importance of the issue. Robinson offered to attend a meeting, as well.
“It’s like noonday,” Robinson said. “I don’t know anything about it, but if you were to cut the lighting in half, it would still be plenty bright to negotiate anything there.”
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Each of the Park City area’s state legislators have a lot more than just ski resorts and restaurants on their mind – try roads, natural gas and a state university as well.