Amy Roberts: The fine print
“Live the Park City lifestyle!”
“Enjoy all Park City has to offer!”
“Minutes from Park City’s Main Street!”
“Stunning ski resort views!”
“Skiing, Sundance, Scenery!”
These are just a few of the selling points I found plastered across the websites of roughly a dozen new developments, all of which will eventually encircle the Jordanelle Reservoir. If there’s any mention that most of the plots of land are actually located in Wasatch County, the news is buried several web pages in. Park City is the selling point, a Heber address is just a minor detail one might find in the fine print.
We’ve heard about the proposed developments near the Jordanelle for years. I’m not sure anyone was overly concerned though. Until the town of Hideout got caught trying to annex Summit County’s prized toxic wasteland, it felt like someone else’s problem. It’ll likely be a while before the attempted land grab gets worked out in the courts, but that hasn’t stopped the backhoes from pushing dirt around the Jordanelle. Or the developers from selling land and offering dreams featuring a town that land is not located in.
All told, roughly 20,000 houses, condos, and townhomes are approved to be built in the vicinity of the Jordanelle. It’s unlikely all of them will come to fruition, but even if only half are actually built, that’s still another 10,000 homes. Conservatively estimating two people per address, we’re looking at close to 20,000 people living on the banks of a reservoir that submerged a couple towns less than 30 years ago. Maybe we should have just kept those towns instead of drowning them. At least they had a general store.
Because the lines dividing Wasatch and Summit counties were drawn to mimic a cracked iPhone screen, it’s possible you could live in one county, but sneeze and your snot will land in the other. About two-thirds of this new development is planned for Wasatch County, the rest in Summit. None of it is actually in Park City, but that hasn’t stopped the marketing team from pretending otherwise. They tout access to skiing, trails, Sundance, restaurants, Main Street, and all things Park City, yet conveniently leave out the fact that this, “easy five mile drive” is likely to take 45 minutes, and once you get here, good luck finding a parking spot.
Also left out of the glossy brochures is the fact that the Jordanelle Dam was built on land ripe for an earthquake. The area is laced with fissures and weak underground formations, not to mention its history of seismic activity. What could possibly go wrong when moving earth to build thousands of new homes near an active fault line?
I’d like to think these potential homeowners will just enjoy their “world-class views” and rarely leave their “legacy home in paradise” to venture into town. Some of the promised amenities — clubhouses, fitness centers, infinity pools, cabanas, equestrian centers, a private golf course, driving range and putting greens — should be enough to keep people in place. But alas, they’ll occasionally have to buy groceries. And gas. Or mail a package. They’ll probably expect to ski. And use our trail system. They might have to visit the hospital. They’ll need to drop off their recycling somewhere. And I’m guessing they’ll want to be entertained occasionally too. I’m pretty confident which way they’ll head on Highway 40 when seeking those amenities. They might go to Heber for their horse food, but chances are, they’re coming to Park City for just about everything else.
Which, as we all know, stresses our infrastructure, contributes to our traffic, smogs up our air and generally makes for less elbow room. It’s not new — we’ve been experiencing the influx of humans pretty steadily for several years in our over-marketed resort town. This year in particular has been exceptionally busy with so many people able to work remotely. But another 20,000 people in just a few years will make it feel like Sundance, COVID and the Olympics happening all at once, with no off switch.
Perhaps it’s time for developers to be more honest in their marketing tactics. “Heber is home and you’re going to need earthquake and flood insurance,” sounds pretty accurate.
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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This ski season was great once it got going, writes Tom Clyde. Being outdoors on the slopes was “a powerful and necessary thing this year.”