Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Colby School site owners say Record’s editorial was ‘reckless,‘ untrue

Emma Worsley, Colby School site owner Julie McBroom, Business partner

The Park Record’s editorial about our property, known as the Colby School, was inaccurate and defamatory. Most disappointing was your disregard for fact or context. A visit would have shown that we provided a safe, clean and affordable place to live for visiting workers who had few if any other good options.

Had you asked, we’d have provided a complete tour like the one we gave your reporter. You might have phoned county inspectors, who visited the property and indicated that they found it fundamentally safe and sanitary. You’d have learned that we had begun to “re-house” the few remaining young people elsewhere at our own expense, but officials indicated that was unnecessary since all the occupants were J-1 guest workers who would vacate by April 1. The inspectors informed us that their main concern was lack of proper licensing, a fact we acknowledge and regret.

Your comparison to the Oakland nightclub facility where people died in a horrible and tragic fire is reckless and irresponsible. Had you asked, we would have informed you –- as we did your reporter –- that we had a private company inspect the premises and install additional safety equipment. We placed fire extinguishers in each room and additional detectors, alarms and emergency lights in the halls. Also, emergency exits are plentiful and the building was constructed under modern-day fire code standards.

But since it was originally built as an inn, then converted to a school of 150 students, a reasonable person might surmise that this was not the first time the property’s fire safety had been considered. So your comparison to a rickety, obsolete warehouse in a rundown industrial section of Oakland was particularly offensive and damaging.

As for the “observant neighbor who reported the situation,” it wasn’t our property she observed. She exploited an innocent chat in a restaurant with one of our young Asian guests about her experience working in this country, during which the young woman mentioned where she and some co-workers were staying. Our former guest was later heartbroken when she learned that a casual conversation had been turned against us so viciously. She and others were deeply offended by the many racially insensitive comments (e.g. “Illegal Asians”) also posted by certain neighbors in subsequent Facebook discussions and then removed.

If not for that conversation, our brief effort at affordable housing may have gone unnoticed. Even the patrons of the fitness facilities on the property were unaware of our seasonal guests, though they were “hiding” in plain sight. These ambitious young people, all legally documented, were happy to have a more than decent place to sleep at night after long days of helping drive Park City’s economy. They were not here to party; some worked multiple jobs. They rode public transit or shuttles, worked hard and conducted themselves well. We were pleased to host these young visitors and quite enjoyed the camaraderie that developed with and amongst them.

We know county planners work hard and try to be fair to all concerned. We have always maintained that our plans for the former school fit within its original use and would have minimal impact on the surrounding area. We believe this experience validates that view, even as we concede that we should have done things differently.

Finally, it is sad that your editorial staff would rely upon scurrilous social media chatter among chronic complainers whose motives are at best suspect (“Illegal Asians,” indeed) rather than seeing for yourselves. Park City faces a dire, much talked about need for affordable worker housing; instead of just paying lip service, we did something about it. It is a shame that you would publish such malicious “alternative facts” based on ignorance.

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