Change was the watchword in 2014, with more in store for new year
December 30, 2014
Park City and Summit County residents will likely refer to 2014 as ‘a game changer’ for many years to come. It will be remembered as the year that Vail Resorts put its brand on Park City Mountain Resort, when the Kimball Art Center decided to leave Main Street and when many East Side residents first learned of plans to build an oil pipeline through the Kamas Valley.
It will also be noted as the year the recession was finally in the rearview mirror, the building boom bounced back and the resorts along the Wasatch Front and Back began to weave themselves together with a web of business partnerships and lifts.
Many of those changes are still in the works, with impacts yet to be determined. Fortunately, several interagency groups have been formed to encourage a regional approach to the growth that is sure to accompany each new development.
Among the anticipated issues are traffic congestion, overcrowding in local classrooms and protecting the environment. Of course, those are ongoing concerns, but the incoming surge in population and tourism is sure to increase the pressure.
The agenda for 2015 is already getting longer. Longstanding items include the Treasure and Bonanza Park developments in Park City. The city and Treasure’s property owners tried to negotiate a trade-down in density for the sensitive hillside parcel above Main Street but this year those talks fell apart. Given the economic climate it seems inevitable that representatives for Treasure will be back before the city this year with new plans.
In the meantime, the lead developer in Bonanza Park who envisions creating a mixed-use neighborhood of shops and residences, saw setbacks this year as the city struggled to define new zoning parameters. If his enthusiasm has cooled, it is understandable, and a potential loss for the city, which is seeing economic opportunities move to areas outside of its taxing authority.
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And then there is that pesky pipeline, which both city and county officials believe could pose a threat to vital water sources in the event of a break or spill.
The need to safely transport oil through the county is directly related to the whole country’s reliance on fossil fuels. The issue highlights the need to reduce consumption of oil and gas while developing alternative energy sources. It will require a vigilant public effort to ensure the Tesoro company builds its pipeline to the highest safety standards, but the effort shouldn’t stop there. A pipeline may be a necessary evil today but eliminating the need for future pipelines should be the ultimate goal.
New and equally challenging discussions in the coming year will, no doubt, be focused on expansion plans at all three ski resorts, with Deer Valley looking east toward Mayflower and Wasatch County, Park City Mountain Resort linking to Canyons and all three potentially looking at base area alterations to address parking and additional commercial offerings. The possibilities are both exciting and intimidating and will require careful collaboration to balance public and private needs.
We also hope there will be lively public debates about how to allocate resources for local schools. With population centers shifting and enrollment growing, existing school district boundaries may need to be amended. The goal should be to ensure class sizes remain as low as possible and all students have equal access to quality education as close to home as possible.
Summit County’s newly elected officials, along with their counterparts at the state and local levels, will have their hands full, with these and many other important issues, in 2015. And, it is important to note, they will make better decisions if their constituents are well-informed, active participants.
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