Guest opinion: The current Tech Center serves the community’s goals |

Guest opinion: The current Tech Center serves the community’s goals

At the continued public hearing on proposed amendments to the Summit Research Park Development Agreement (aka Dakota Pacific at Kimball Junction), I made a personal choice to comment “in person,” rather than shuffle my thoughts into Basin Planning Commission packets. Democracy is founded on the principle of free and open discussion.

I “Zoomed” in with the intent to sharpen the perspective of planning commissioners. Longitudinal experience with former development applications at Kimball Junction informs my opposition to this mixed-use residential plan.

History is relevant. Some locals will recall the Snyderville Basin Recreation District’s first bond election in 1995. It was the same year Property Reserve, Inc. (PRI, the private real estate arm of the LDS church) proposed a 570-acre master planned project on this property. The Snyderville Basin’s first recreation facilities were imagined here. Public recreation facilities in the Basin did not exist at that time. PRI’s immense mixed-use development included dense residential areas, an elementary school location, an LDS church, footprints for an Albertson’s and Ernst Home Center, another outlet mall, a hotel, an office building, a main street commercial strip, a possible 12-plex cinema and a medical facility. Imagine it.

In 1996, following Basin Recreation’s successful 1995 bond election, I was hired as the district’s first administrator. Following two years of neighborhood meetings and numerous public hearings, the Basin’s first Recreation and Trails Master Plan was adopted by Summit County in 1998. From that point in time, I reviewed all new Snyderville Basin development applications as they moved through the approval process. Until I left the district in 2013, I attended Basin Planning Commission meetings regularly. That is how non-motorized trail easements and some park sites were acquired. One project at a time, under the performance-based “matrix system,” the Basin’s community-wide trail system connected. Along the way, community parks and recreation facilities were developed, and open space was preserved.

This explains my steadfast presence at Basin Planning Commission meetings. I was in the room as PRI rolled out subsequent mixed-use development applications in 2001 and 2003.

Boyer Company’s successful 2008 rezone of this development site to community commercial came with a convincing argument. A Tech Center would complement the growing town center on the east side of Kimball Junction, and stabilize uncertainties of a tourism-based economy. Their plan was fully embraced, as was a 680-acre open space deal involving Kimball Junction and Round Valley.

Fast forward. I understand the effort that went into the recent Kimball Junction Neighborhood Plan which specifically states “… Introduce additional uses within the previously approved Tech Center site…” It’s now clear the “Hey, Kimball Junction” initiative was the camel in the tent. It opened the door for Dakota Pacific’s radical departure from the Tech Center. It oversteps “introducing additional uses.”

I beg every participant in the “Hey, Kimball Junction” initiative to understand that meaningful open space equates to hundreds of acres. Community trails connect neighborhood to neighborhood, and neighborhood to schools and community commercial centers. The rhetoric that Dakota Pacific’s plan “Protects open space and embraces local sustainability goals” and “promotes walkability, with tree-lined streets and trails offering easy access throughout the project, with neighboring properties and the regional trail network” is contrived. The approved Tech Center does not preclude sustainability, walkability and regional trail connections.

Dakota Pacific is represented by a team of skilled professionals promoting an urban-style residential development. This is not the time nor the place to circle back on a PRI-like project. I support our planning commissioners and County Council members as they backbone the interests of our community. Debate this application vigorously and publicly.

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