Form-based code is latest in series of planning fiascos
July 7, 2015
Park City leaders have spent a lot of time over the last few years talking in code. That is, they have been amending and revising the city’s guiding planning documents, ad infinitum. But for those who don’t know the lingo, it hasn’t made much sense. So it is no surprise that the introduction and recent demise of a convoluted planning concept dubbed form-based code elicited barely a peep from the public.
What has drawn attention, though, is a cluster of development-related fiascos starting at the top of Main Street, continuing to the bottom and sprawling out toward the district known as Bonanza Park. The controversy on upper Main Street is aimed at a luxury condominium project currently under construction. Critics say the structure does not fit Main Street rules that call for street-level storefronts in order to maintain the district’s economic vitality. The new project somehow sidestepped that ordinance and no one is sure who dropped the ball. The new project’s garage entrance effectively bookends the shopping experience on Main Street, isolating the businesses above.
Downhill, the historic district is facing another identity crisis. Thanks to an impasse between City Hall and the Kimball Art Center over a proposed expansion, the art center has sold its iconic building in hopes of finding new digs elsewhere in the city. The organization, which offered an important cultural component to Main Street, is planning to move out in September.
In the meantime, the developer who purchased the Kimball site is also eyeing the high-end condo market but thus far has been stymied in his efforts to gain Planning Department approvals. The delay leaves us worried that a prominent corner on Main Street may go dark for at least a season. The city could help expedite new uses for the site by clearly defining what is allowable.
As for Bonanza Park, where plans for a residential and commercial district have been on hold as City Hall debated its future, there were no tears shed for form-based code. It would be interesting to know, though, how many hours of staff time were wasted and how many boxes of paper were sent over to the recycling center’s shredder while planners experimented with new formulas.
Those are just three examples of wayward decisions, or non-decisions, emanating from City Hall. In the interim, the planning director bolted and the city is redefining the position, reverting to a previous organizational chart that calls for a community development director in his stead.
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It might be unfair to chastise the city’s planning efforts in the midst of the turnover. But, then again, it might be the perfect time to highlight the need for a strong leader with a knack for turning code into action.
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