Amy Roberts: Build what you bought
It’s easy to dismiss them as Karens or members of the NIMBY crowd. I’ve even read the term “CANEs” (Citizens Against Nearly Everything) used to describe them. And while it’s true those living near the Highland Estates neighborhood want to speak with the manager, it is equally true that their concerns are valid and deserve attention.
At issue is a proposed development consisting of 410 residential units split among 27 buildings on 41 acres of land near the intersection of U.S. 40 and I-80. If built, the project would house somewhere near 1,000 residents, possibly more. Developers say one-third of the project would be earmarked as affordable housing, with rent between 30 and 80% of the area median income (AMI), which is about $80,000 per year for a single person in Park City. An additional 45% of the proposed homes would be “moderately affordable,” and the rest would be offered at the current market rate — roughly $2,400 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit.
In theory it all sounds like a good plan. After all, there’s a massive shortage of affordable housing in Park City, meaning many essential workers are forced to commute, which adds to the traffic we all complain about. But given the land’s current zoning allows for only one home to be built per 20 acres, it’s little wonder neighbors are fiercely opposed. They invested in their nearby homes with the understanding that existing zoning laws and the Basin’s general plan (which would also need to be amended) provided adequate growth and development restrictions. It’s really not much different than living in your neighborhood for many years and suddenly being told the houses on the next street are being leveled to make way for a COSTCO and now you’re expected to share your backyard with people purchasing mayonnaise by the gallon.
Further, it’s hard to simply accept the good intentions claim of land developers who live in Salt Lake City. “We understand change is difficult, but as Park City and Snyderville grow and become less affordable, we feel it is a privilege and obligation to be part of the solution for a community we love,” the developers recently wrote in an op-ed to The Park Record. The statement is suspicious at best. Find me one Park City resident who considers it a privilege and obligation to solve housing problems in South Jordan and I might change my mind. Developers aren’t generally in the business of benevolence. Besides, if the intention was truly an effort to help solve the affordable housing crisis in a community they do not call home, why not offer at least some units for sale? Because selling them isn’t as profitable. Rental income generates revenue in perpetuity. They’re in it for the cash, not the community.
The developers knew the land was zoned as rural residential and deemed low density/open space in the general plan when they purchased it. They also knew the only way to change the zoning is to prove a substantial community benefit. And that’s the only reason the words “affordable housing” have even been uttered. Essentially, they want to build something they don’t have the space for. Perhaps they should annex Hideout.
The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission was slated to hold a public hearing about the project on Tuesday evening, which is after my deadline and prior to print. So by the time you read this, there will likely be more information available, though it’s unlikely a firm decision will have been made. In the months to come there will be reviews of the information that’s presented, input from experts and consultants, studies from both sides about traffic, water and wildlife, and eventually lawyers will be summoned. Whatever happens Tuesday is just the first mile of the marathon. I hope Karen has some comfortable sneakers.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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