Guest editorial: Why aren’t officials seeking a solution for Colby School property?
As a longtime Utahn but relatively recent transplant from Salt Lake City to Park City, I have been an eager and curious student of my new community.
I’ve enjoyed exploring the endless paved and unpaved trails on foot, road bike and mountain bike. I’ve enjoyed going to shows at The Egyptian, getting familiar with local businesses and the news presented by The Park Record. I’ve enjoyed — as everyone does — the breathtaking scenery that is everywhere, even along “the highway,” S.R. 224. And so much more.
What I haven’t enjoyed so much is looking at the increasingly dilapidated Colby School building (which I remember as The Snowed Inn from years ago), nor have I enjoyed reading about the bureaucratic back-and-forth that has prevented it from being restored to something beautiful and useful and in keeping with what Park City offers.
Apparently, this back-and-forth has been going on for years and has come down to whether an eight-room bed-and-breakfast, for which the property is properly zoned, will be owner-occupied or not. The owner is an LLC (i.e. not a person) and its representative/applicant has offered that the bed-and-breakfast manager hired by the LLC will live on-site and be given a share of ownership. Still, permission was denied.
Instead of seeking to problem-solve in order to advance a solid project that meets all other criteria, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission said no. From what I’ve read, they’ve pecked away at this project for five years and always say no. I appreciate them listening to neighbors and adhering to ordinances, but reports of their latest decision indicate there’s no clear definition on the books for “owner-occupied” that helps the parties sort through what happens when the owner is an entity versus a person. Clearly, because of The Snowed Inn and Colby School precedents, the property has been used for commercial purposes in the past, presumably with managers and/or no owner living on site. Somehow that was OK. So why the denial?
This whole situation reminds me of something an old colleague of mine used to say when we worked together in local politics down in Salt Lake City: “The public process is messy, so you have to decide if you want to be right or if you want to be effective.” The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission seems more interested in being right (which is questionable here) than in being effective; more interested in splitting bureaucratic hairs than in working to advance their mission, which includes to “promote our mountain resort community” (from their website).
At this point, it looks like we’ll be stuck with a blighted building sitting in between Canyons Village and Park City’s treasured, iconic White Barn on the gateway road into our otherwise scenic resort town. Because, if we don’t move forward with this owner/applicant, who in their right mind would ever want to buy the property and potentially get themselves into a costly five-year tangle with bureaucrats? Probably no one. Looks like we’re stuck indefinitely with the Colby School building as it is.
Surely, Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, you can work toward solutions that promote our mountain resort community better than this?
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