Guest editorial: St. Luke’s Church addresses Silver Springs neighbors | ParkRecord.com

Guest editorial: St. Luke’s Church addresses Silver Springs neighbors

Lack of affordable housing in Park city is a growing problem

Karl Sears, Senior Warden, and Charles Robinson, Pastor
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church

Lack of affordable housing in the greater Park City area is a serious problem. With the median price of a single-family home in Summit County around $1 million or more, how can young (or even older) blue-collar and professional-income people (teachers, policemen, office workers, mechanics, clergy, small business owners, etc.) afford housing at these exorbitant costs? It is clearly a benefit to the local community if those who serve the community also reside within it.

In a charitable effort to provide affordable housing, St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Snyderville was hoping, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, to offer surplus property for construction of town houses that would be preferentially offered for sale to those who serve the community in professional capacities. To implement this project, however, would have required that the County Council either rezone the land or grant a "Special Exception." The surplus parcel is presently designated as "Rural Residential" (as is the whole neighborhood, by the way) and, unfortunately, was not included in another kind of special exception: the "S.P.A." that allowed the neighborhood to be constructed. In other words, nothing could proceed without this exception.

St. Luke's and Habitat were prepared to present initial drafts of our proposed project to our residential neighbors; to listen to their input, concerns, and constructive ideas; and to negotiate a plan that most in the neighborhood would support and of which they would feel proud. While St. Luke's and Habitat were waiting for permission to build on the land, however, false rumors began to spread. These rumors asserted, in one form or another, that the church and Habitat were planning to build "high density" housing units without any input from the neighborhood and that "the fix is already in." That was never the truth.

Legitimate discussion items could have been the size, the number, the arrangement and the appearance of the town house units. For example, some smaller number of larger units may have been preferable to a larger number of smaller ones. Such issues as well as other aspects of our project would have been negotiable. Before such neighborhood conversations and negotiations began, however, friends within County government assured us that the County Council would not, under the current code, be able to grant our Special Exception. With no way forward, we asked that the public hearing be cancelled.

Our fervent hope is to have another opportunity in the future to proceed with calm, rational and intelligent public dialogue concerning our proposal to make positive, constructive use of our excess land. We respectfully ask that everyone understand that the St. Luke's open parcel has never been donated or designated as "open space," and we intend to make better use of our property than growing weeds and collecting debris. Hopefully, with sufficient conversation, information sharing and negotiations, we will end up using our land in a manner that finds support among the majority of our Silver Springs neighbors.