Guest editorial: Big projects need unified perspective
It is the best of times and the worst of times (potentially) here in Park City. As a resident who moved to town in 2014, I have developed an ardor for Park City that may be akin to that of a convert; unwavering! We have an unparalleled combination of access to natural beauty, world-class skiing and trails as well as a historic legacy that has attracted a diverse and exceptional community. What is not to like?
We also face a series of changes that will impact the fabric of the town and community in a permanent way. We have all experienced the traffic issues that come with epic powder days or the height of the Sundance festival. We have seen the “Now Hiring” signs in the windows of local businesses. The buzz surrounding the transportation and storage of mining-impacted soils is a very hot topic, among other issues.
What do these topics and a host of others have in common? These issues are a result of what I would call “willy-nilly” planning. The town faces several major development projects including the PEG development at the base of PCMR, the Snow Park development at Deer Valley and the Arts & Culture District at the corner of 248 and Monitor Drive. Taken individually, each of these projects has the potential to bring a new and exciting amenity to Park City. Taken together the prospect of further exacerbating the preexisting affordable/worker housing shortage, traffic nightmares and ecological impact on Park City are potentially devastating.
We have a Planning Commission that is tasked with judging individually whether each of these developments is in compliance with local legislative restrictions in the form of the Land Management Code (“LCM”). Recent Commission meetings (which are available to all via Zoom) may be thought of as long and dry, but they are not! At the most recent meeting a heated debate between developers and commissioners ensued with the prime topic being exceptions to the LCM, traffic mitigation, worker housing, etc. Several members of the public, especially Deb Rentfrow and RRAD have voiced concerns of residents. Commissioners including John Kenworthy and Laura Suesser have been outspoken in defense of scale, traffic, and other features of the LCM.
Hats off to those who are trying to preserve what makes Park City Park City. But what is needed rather than a series of individual debates on a per project basis is a comprehensive plan. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you want to go, it is really hard to get there.”
City leadership needs to endorse hitting the Pause Button. With so many big projects on the table and a host of latent issues that will only be further impacted in a multiplicative way, it is simply irresponsible to attempt to address further development on a project-by-project basis. A comprehensive plan that speaks to where to go with transportation, housing, pedestrian movement, toxic soil issues, etc. is of paramount importance.
We are at a crossroads. If we continue down the track that appears to be in place, we run the risk of losing what makes our town what it is. Recently the example of Gatlinburg, Tennessee was raised at a gathering of concerned citizens. What was once a charming and friendly destination has been forever changed, very much for the worse, as the result of some of the very issues we in Park City are facing.
I am not asking to pull up the drawbridge preventing future development. What is incumbent upon those of us who love Park City is for a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to future development not only for our city but also including the county and other stakeholders who value and depend on Park City to be the wonderful place that it currently is. Let’s not blow it!
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“As we hear about multiple developments that propose growth in terms of thousands of units, it makes you wonder,” writes James Duebber.