Guest editorial: Neighbor says Park City affordable housing project should be scaled back
I am writing to follow up Jay Hamburger’s article from April 1 entitled “Planning panel hears split testimony on Park City housing project.”
As Jay noted in the article, my family has owned the home at 1356 Empire Ave. (immediately to the north of the project) since the early 1980s. We have watched the resort (and the traffic) grow exponentially since those days.
I want to state upfront that I am very supportive of the city’s efforts to create more affordable housing. However, in developing that housing, I believe the city needs to act in a prudent and responsible way and to be a good neighbor.
The basis of my complaint is that the city and planning staff are using their leverage as both developer and regulator to adopt aggressive interpretations of the Park City Land Management Code (“LMC”) and the Master Planned Development (“MPD”) regulations without regard to the impact on the immediate neighbors and other stakeholders. For example, in the interest of maximizing density on the site, the planning staff and designers have proposed harmful variations of the lot coverage (43% proposed vs. 50-60% required), setback (10-20 feet proposed vs. 25 feet required), and parking (72 spaces proposed vs. 90 spaces required for affordable housing) requirements.
For projects in the Recreation Commercial (“RC”) zone, the only “by right” residential uses are single family, duplex or triplex homes; larger multifamily projects (i.e. anything over three units) are considered “conditional” uses and require special Planning Commission approval. Given the above, I would expect a large-scale, 58 unit development built by a public entity to be held to a higher standard and to improve the built environment for all stakeholders, not just the potential affordable housing residents.
With regards to life safety issues, local residents will recall from the Treasure Hill/THINC debate that traffic on Empire Avenue has reached dangerous levels on the best of days and is even worse on snow and/or event days when things turn to crisis levels. For example, during one afternoon in February, I was returning to my home and I witnessed an ambulance which was unable to reach the PCMR resort center due to standstill traffic in both directions on Empire. Additionally, nearly every winter day, I witness the travails of weary families frustratingly attempting to walk between the resort center and their residences on Empire, Woodside, Norfolk or Park. They are forced to trudge along the actual Empire Avenue roadbed, braving the traffic, because of the non-existence or inaccessibility of sidewalks on Empire. Accordingly, large scale multifamily development with access to Empire must be minimized given such narrow roadways and lack of sidewalks. Far from being “green,” this project will force even more cars onto already overloaded local streets and will funnel increased foot traffic onto Empire, increasing danger to pedestrians.
Lastly, I wanted to highlight the proposed treatment of the historically significant home at 1302 Norfolk Ave. Slamming the new development up against the historic building and disregarding the historical lot lines, setbacks, landscaping and grading is inconsistent with the historic preservation guidelines of Park City and the City Council.
In summary, given the excessive size of the project, the potential life safety risks (from inadequate parking and incremental traffic generation) and the insensitive treatment of an historic structure on the site, I believe that the project needs to be scaled back to mitigate its detrimental impact on the neighborhood. I hope the city will consider reducing the scale of the project to address these concerns.
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