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Worker housing beats challenge

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

Over continuing objections from neighbors, the Park City Council on Thursday night essentially approved a work force housing development on the edge of Snow Creek, unanimously allowing the project to proceed.

The neighbors had appealed a lower panel’s approval of the development to the elected officials. The City Councilors, which months ago directed staffers to pursue the project, had been expected to support the Planning Commission’s previous approval of a 13-house work force development. It is slated for a swath of City Hall-controlled land at 2060 Park Ave. Much of the land will remain undeveloped under the plans.

The City Councilors made few comments before the vote, and the discussion was short compared to previous meetings about the project, which has been dubbed the Snow Creek Cottages.

"They’re going to do what they want to do, no matter what," Lisa Rudy, a Windrift Lane resident who was one of eight neighbors challenging the project, said in an interview after the City Council vote.

An attorney representing condominium owners on Windrift Lane, Tony Rampton, declined to discuss the prospects of a lawsuit. He expected to meet with Park City Attorney Mark Harrington on Monday, but he did not provide details about what would be discussed with the city attorney.

Rudy also refused to discuss whether her side will pursue a lawsuit.

The neighbors had been unhappy with the Planning Commission approval, saying in their appeal that the development was not properly vetted before the panel voted. Some of the worries included the effects on wildlife and waterways and the height of the houses.

Speaking to the City Council, Rampton challenged the results of a report about wildlife at the site, saying the report is not detailed enough. He called it a "quick and dirty study," and he said the land is important to keeping animals in Park City.

The report, which was issued this month by a Salt Lake City firm, found that the project’s impacts on the wildlife "are expected to be minimal" because the houses would be built outside of wetlands or other land where wildlife tends to be found more frequently.

The report said there is a "relatively small diversity" of wildlife on the land, including birds, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

Snow Creek Cottages will be one of City Hall’s most ambitious work force housing developments, with Park City usually assisting others building worker projects instead of putting up a project on its own.

Park City officials have for years embraced an idea that the city is better off if people of varying incomes can afford to live locally. They say that brings economic diversity and reduces traffic, among other benefits they tout. Without the housing, people like teachers, firefighters and police officers would have difficulty buying homes locally, they say.

Park City’s resort-driven housing market, which is the most expensive in the state, prices many rank-and-file workers out of the city. The East Side of Summit County, Wasatch County and the Salt Lake Valley are popular places for scores of workers to live.

The City Councilors are scheduled to hold another discussion about the project on Aug. 28. An early agenda indicates they will address the development’s design and restrictions on the house deeds.

It was unclear what restrictions will be discussed, but deeds attached to work force housing developments often spell out how much someone can earn to qualify to buy a unit and how much a unit can appreciate in value each year.

The Aug. 28 discussion is tentatively scheduled for an hour starting at 4 p.m. in Room 205 of the Park City Library and Education Center. The agenda will be finalized early next week.


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