Guest opinion: There’s a conflict in City Hall’s development and land-use oversight roles
Park City is both the largest property developer and the sole overseer of property development in Park City. In its oversight role, the City Council along with the Planning Commission have authority to approve or reject development plans. As a property developer, the city proposes and recommends development plans for approval by the Planning Commission and City Council.
The city’s role in each of these development and oversight roles can be entangling.
One recent entanglement had the city developing the arts and culture district, purchasing the property parcel and removing contaminated soil from the district. (OK, I would not call it “contaminated” except the city felt the need to move it). Tim Henney noted at a recent council meeting that the city believed it could save $20 million from the cost of relocating the soil to Tooele. The savings could be plowed right back into the district, for the community’s benefit. We have also heard about the PCMR resort base development and that the anticipated tax revenue and tax income to the city is also planned to offset enhanced arts and culture district costs, and the cost of transit policy and traffic mitigation in the PCMR base area neighborhood among other future expenses.
Four identifiable entanglements with developer and development oversight roles: 1) The arts and culture district’s contaminated soils and the need to deal with them, moving them to the repository instead of shipping to Tooele, offering a significant cost reduction. 2) Plowing the savings into lowering the district’s development costs of as much as $100 million. 3) Leveraging and committing the Park City community’s tax base and solid credit/bond rating to finance the district. 4) Anticipating over the horizon tax revenues for the PCMR base development (an addiction to money!) to mitigate effects of the development on traffic and transit in the base area neighborhood and Old Town.
Given the community’s nearly unanimous opposition to the repository, the development of the arts and culture district seems to have gotten too pricey for the current council and these discussions have been tabled. Mayor Beerman opined as much at a recent council meeting but then in an aside, suggested it all may rise again after the elections. Entanglements can have benefit, and entanglements may have costs.
The city is a strong developer and has done a lot of good for the community, but aren’t the city’s developer roles constantly and directly in conflict with its roles and responsibilities as the regulator of all development within the city’s boundaries? I believe the city’s discussions of the perceived advantages of over the horizon tax revenues arising from the PCMR development, and the city’s interest in the project, cloud its judgment and should cause the city to recuse itself in consideration of the PCMR development in the future. The city attorney recently issued such a caution to City Council candidates that they may have to recuse themselves from any approval or rejection of PEG’s plans for PCMR if they express their opinions on the wisdom of the PCMR development during the campaign and are elected. The current mayor and council members are already at risk from their public discussions to date?
I believe the city attorney should consider a larger review of the city’s conflicted roles as both a regulator of development and developer. The city attorney should also try to enable public discourse during the current election season so that mayoral and council candidates can have a dialogue with the community of voters that encompasses development topics of concern to the community including the PCMR base. Such is a democracy.
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