City Hall should encourage, not stifle, Bonanza Park
and large, Park City residents take pride in City Hall’s rigorous development standards and sophisticated planning initiatives. But public sentiment seems to be shifting as projects are turned down and frustrated developers threaten to take their projects outside the city limits.
The impasse between the city and the developers of Treasure, a proposed project on a hillside above Old Town, is one example of talks that continued for years with limited progress. The city spent more than a year negotiating with the landowner in hopes of moving some of the developer’s previously-approved million square feet of development off the hillside to another part of town. But the two sides could not find common ground and the developer ended the talks.
More recently, the city turned down the Kimball Art Center’s design for an addition adjacent to its historic building. After a lengthy planning review the design was deemed out of compliance with the city’s historic district standards and the art center responded by announcing its intention to move off of Main Street.
Now, Bonanza Park seems to be caught in the quagmire of shifting development codes.
In May of 2011 an enthusiastic developer, Mark Fischer, and architect Craig Elliott hosted a well-attended open house to talk about the potential of a sizable chunk of largely undeveloped land in the heart of the city dubbed Bonanza Park. Potential uses for the property, they explained, could include retail, residential and office space connected to existing public transit routes. The project, they suggested, could also include an anchor tenant like a university extension or convention facility.
The reception was enthusiastic and there was an expectation that more specific plans would be drawn up. But shortly after the open house, Bonanza Park hit a snag. Negotiations to move the Rocky Mountain Power substation flickered on and off for months and finally short circuited.
Momentum on the Bonanza Park development has since dimmed and last week suffered another setback after a hearing before the planning commission about a new form-based code.
To his credit, Fischer did not cry foul or berate City Hall, but does admit he is frustrated about potentially having to conform to a new set of rules that could adversely affect the district’s future.
So are a lot of Parkites and business owners who are seeing areas like Redstone, Newpark and Canyons Resort Village flourishing as the economy recovers.
While it makes sense to discourage development on sensitive hillsides, like Treasure, or to protect the historic character of Old Town as was the case in the debate about the art center’s addition. It does not make sense to stifle commercial growth and much-needed residential development in an underused, centrally located part of the city by introducing a new set of complex, overly bureaucratic rules at this late date.
Bonanza Park is brimming with potential, Park City’s economy is on the uptick and this developer has proven his commitment to the community. It is time for the city to find a way to say ‘Yes, let’s build this.’
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