Guest opinion: Don’t ignore perks of the Tech Center proposal
Recent Park Record issues have presented letters and opinion pieces expressing valid concern over the proposed Dakota Pacific development in Kimball Junction. While each has presented concerns about the proposal, most especially traffic congestion, each has, in my opinion, overlooked some compelling reasons why this proposal is good for Kimball Junction and Summit County.
In the spring of 2017, Summit County formed a committee to take a comprehensive look at Kimball Junction, with the specific charge to address land use, transportation/transit, neighborhood connectivity and way-finding signs. The committee, made up of area residents, was supported by Summit County staff planners. Over the ensuing 20 months, the committee developed the proposed Kimball Junction Neighborhood Plan Amendment to the Snyderville Basin General Plan. In subsequent public hearings before the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission and the Summit County Council, broad public comment was heard and factored into the approval decisions by these two bodies.
The Neighborhood Plan as approved paves the way for a sustainable environment where people can live, work and recreate. It envisions the following attributes:
• a mixed-use neighborhood
• a people-oriented walkable environment
• a seamlessly connected neighborhood
• a variety of housing choices
• high visual quality
• centralized parking
The Dakota Pacific proposal that impacts the west side of S.R. 224 is in sync with these positive attributes, and the approved vision. Its implementation is supported by the neighborhood mixed-use zoning proposal being prepared by Summit County. Traffic studies show the peak time traffic load added by the Dakota Pacific development, when fully built, appears to be less than what would occur with the build-out of the original entitlement. That said, the Snyderville Basin and Park City traffic problem needs to be resolved. Allowing the current agreement for this property to remain in place as The Park Record suggested recently in an editorial does not address the current traffic congestion. It merely kicks it down the road, until the public will demand the necessary political resolve to improve it.
The Kimball Junction committee met with the head of the Utah Department of Transportation during the analysis and planning process to focus directly on how current and future traffic concerns could be addressed. It was advised that it would be necessary for Park City and Summit County to bring an agreed solution to UDOT. Past planning conversations have suggested that bus rapid transit is likely the preferred solution. The Dakota Pacific proposal reserves appropriate land to enable an appropriate transit center to be integrated into the project at a later date. While it would be preferable to incorporate a solution to our age-old traffic problem now, preserving the ability to add it later is relevant. While it is appropriate to expect the developer to participate in the cost to solve this problem, it should not be expected to carry the entire cost. In my opinion, it should appropriately be shared by Summit County, Park City and UDOT.
The substantial growth that Utah and Summit County have seen and will continue to see must also be considered. New residents are going to live somewhere, and a sustainable transit-oriented development will provide an opportunity to lower their carbon footprint.
The Kimball Junction Neighborhood Plan and the neighborhood mixed-use zoning lay the groundwork for a world-class live-work-play environment. The Dakota Pacific proposal gives us an opportunity to begin moving towards that vision within the next few months. In preparation for whatever may happen in Kimball Junction, it’s critical that we begin moving now to address the traffic problem.
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