Tom Clyde: One Wasatch Back
The municipal elections are coming right up. Ballots are already be in the mail, though changes at the post office will slow their arrival. I live in unincorporated Summit County, so there isn’t an election for city council members in my neighborhood. In fact, I think the only thing on a ballot in my area is the Summit County open space bond. That’s a proposal to borrow $50 million to buy land or the development rights on land. Preservation of the farmland in that beautiful meadow that extends from Kamas to Wanship is a worthy goal. $50 million is a modest beginning. In our insane real estate market, it won’t go very far. But it’s a good start.
I’m a big supporter of the open space bond. The county has had enough experience with open space purchases in the Snyderville Basin to know what they are dealing with. With limited funds, it won’t be easy, though not every land owner will be lining up as a willing seller. On the East Side where land has been held by the same families for generations, there will be all kinds of weird family dynamics. But preservation of that undeveloped corridor is the last stand when it comes to preserving any sense of rural life in Summit County.
There was a forum with the Park City mayoral candidates at the Rotary Club this week. I know both Andy Beerman and Nann Worel. I like and respect them both. They have made lasting contributions to the future of the community, and Park City residents are fortunate to have such a high quality choice presented to them. While the candidates have remained professional and civil, supporters have turned up the heat to levels that seem inappropriate. Chill, people, chill. The City Council races are probably more significant in terms of direction.
As a friend put it, I don’t have a raccoon in that dumpster, at least not technically. I’m not a Park City resident, but consider myself to be a “local.” I’m not alone in that position. Residents of Snyderville frequently try to vote in city elections and are shocked to learn they can’t. Residents of Wasatch County who make their living in the Park City area are as likely to consider themselves Parkites as Wasatch County residents (Heberians?) even though their kids go to school in Heber. Their economic and social interests are interwoven into the a greater Park City community that doesn’t end at the jurisdictional limits. Park City is a state of mind as much as a geographic fact.
And that brings me to a very frustrating conclusion. It’s all broken. The mayoral candidates gave cogent and well-informed answers to the wrong questions. Since the Olympics, Park City has changed from an insular community that was very separate from surrounding county areas to being an important neighborhood in a metropolitan area that now extends from Summit Park to Daniel, south of Heber. Look at it when you drive through, or pull it up on Google Earth. There are pockets of open land (purchased with open space bonds), but basically, the urban area is unbroken across that wide swath of two counties. Going the other way, it extends east to Kamas/Francis (that boundary line is blurring rapidly), and along I-80 in to Wanship and nibbling at Hoystville. Even Coalville is seeing growth for the first time in maybe 70 years.
Every time I pick up the paper, there is another new development hitting the docket. It used to be a 20-lot subdivision was a big deal. They are coming in batches of 1,000 units now. Mayflower Mountain Resort anticipates 4,000 daily guests at build-out, with 2,300 employees to operate it seven days a week. That employee head count doesn’t include the staff at the hotels, restaurants and retail within the development. They are providing some work force housing, and building it up front. But there are still thousands of new jobs to be filled by people who have no place live in an unaffordable market. Then add in a proposed Smith’s Marketplace north of Heber, new commercial planned in other Heber City and Wasatch County developments (the new Heber LDS Temple project includes a shopping center for some reason), and rumored developments about to hit Kamas Valley 1,000 units at a whack. Something will happen on the Richardson Flat ground, whether it’s under Hideout’s jurisdiction, Summit County’s or Park City’s. Everyday there is some new strip mining operation around the Jordanelle for more condos.
Park City is anguishing over the PCMR parking lot development. It’s important because of its very prominent location, but in terms of the tsunami of development in the greater metro area, it’s barely a rounding error.
Park City is no longer an island. It’s an important neighborhood in a mid-sized urban area that is pushing 60,000 people who are all interconnected socially and economically. And traffically. We need to quit managing things along parochial jurisdictional lines that have long ago been stomped out, and begin managing this as the mid-sized city that it is. Park City isn’t going to shut down the development around Jordanelle, nor can it. But it needs to be factoring it into every decision it makes. There is only one Wasatch Back. Let’s not wreck it.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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