Tom Clyde: Weird resort town economics | ParkRecord.com

Tom Clyde: Weird resort town economics

More Dogs on Main

By Tom Clyde
Park Record columnist

We made it through the Fourth of July holiday without a trip to the emergency room, which, in my family, is saying something.

We had a collection of kids, dogs, horses, ATVs and befuddled old folks playing with weed whackers, fireworks, flaming marshmallows, chainsaws and the river. The most serious injury was the dogs getting into something disgusting that had them leaking from both ends for a couple of days.

My nephew and his family, who live in Jackson, were here for a visit. His kids don't get here a lot, but when they do, they blend right in and know exactly where the sharp stuff they aren't supposed to play with is. So a mayhem-free holiday was pretty remarkable.

He arrived with a new dirt bike. Normally, given the opportunity, I would back over a dirt bike with the front-end loader just out of principle. But his was relatively quiet, and I like him.

The doctor eats and showers at the hospital and lives in a tent, because there is nothing available to rent and no ability to buy. And I thought our housing market was a mess.

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He grew up here and thought he knew the area. But a friend in Jackson had updated him on a bunch of motorcycle trails here in Woodland that my nephew had not ridden. I'm not at all sure I like the idea that his friend, who just recently moved to Jackson from Michigan, was touting the trails here. Being discovered isn't really all it's cracked up to be.

My nephew described what he goes through trying to hire somebody to work in the hardware store he manages. The housing situation here is terrible, but in Jackson, there isn't an option of commuting from Salt Lake. The few towns within a reasonable range are all very small, and there isn't much by way of rental housing.

He recently hired a guy who was camping somewhere out in the woods on a permanent basis. That was home. It seemed like an unlikely hire, but he met the important threshold standard of being alive. Reading, speaking and running the computer were all bonus traits. The guy showed up for work for two pay periods, worked hard and then vanished.

In the context of that job market, he considered it a successful hire. He said they could double the pay for employees, and they still couldn't afford a place to live.

Among the other forest dwellers living in campgrounds on a long-term basis was a newly hired doctor. This is a guy who works at the hospital and is presumably paid pretty well compared to the guy stocking shelves at the hardware store (though likely loaded up with student loan debt).

The doctor eats and showers at the hospital and lives in a tent, because there is nothing available to rent and no ability to buy. And I thought our housing market was a mess.

We are seeing homelessness in Park City now.

Informal camps are cropping up in the woods along the rail trail, and there are reports of people sleeping in the transit centers from time to time. Nobody really has a solution. The City and County have done a lot, working with Mountainlands Community Housing, to provide some reasonably priced housing.

But there isn't enough, and the cost of providing more, which requires a huge subsidy, makes it very difficult to build more. Some of what we consider affordable in this market seems pretty expensive to me. It's a problem everywhere, but the twisted economics of resort towns really make it worse.

While we can't provide enough housing, we seem determined to provide too much transportation.

The City is still refining its plan to provide free car service in town. I've tried to figure this one out, and just don't get it. At first it sounded like a system to pick you up at your house and deliver you to your destination, a door-to-door taxi service. Then it sounded like they would toss you out at the nearest bus stop. The only things that seemed clear were that the system would be free (assuming that tax dollars don't count), and the cars would be electric.

The taxi companies complained that it was essentially a free taxi service in direct competition with their private companies and would destroy their businesses. Yes, but there's an app, and the cars would be electric. Aspen does it. It would be cool. So there.

Can we expand on this? As long as the City-funded driver is at the house, could he or she come in and fold some laundry and vacuum before driving me to a restaurant where the City will provide a free dinner?

If the goal is to reduce traffic and congestion, maybe they could just send a City-financed catering truck (electric, of course) to the house, and I wouldn't have to go out at all.

Maybe it could swing by the grocery store on the way. . .

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.