Letters, March 6-9: Many people want to live here. That doesn’t mean Park City has an affordable housing shortage.
A problem of excess
Regarding the proposed Highland Estates development: Several letters published by The Park Record are opposed to the project while acknowledging a need for more affordable housing. I, too, am opposed — but for a very different reason: We do not have any housing shortage, affordable or otherwise. Instead, there is an excess of people who wish to live here but who have not figured out how to make it work with their personal situation.
Let’s be clear: An excess of people who wish to live here does not mean we have a shortage of housing. All it means is there is an excess of people who wish to live here, period. Neither the city nor the county have any obligation to accommodate people who don’t currently live here. Let’s do a thought experiment: Let’s say we polled everyone who lives in Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City and asked them, “Would you like to live in Park City if it were affordable?” and discovered through that poll that 10 million people wished to move to Park City if only there were sufficient affordable housing. Does that imply we have a shortage of millions of units of affordable housing? Are we under some obligation to approve millions of incremental housing units? Clearly not. All that would mean is there is an excess of people who wish to live here if somehow conditions were different for them. That does not mean we have a housing shortage.
Clearly, the wrong question is “How can we add more housing,” affordable or otherwise, in Highland Estates or elsewhere.
The right question for planning officials and elected officials is “How many people do we allow to live here, overwhelming the already-saturated public infrastructure, before we say we’re full — as full as a Park City theater venue during the first week of a pre-COVID Sundance Film Festival?”
When will planning officials and elected officials say “enough is enough — we’re done adding people?”
Bad money after bad money
Last Saturday’s guest editorial suggesting the stalled Kimball Arts Center project include moving the entire transit center to that plot of land stunned me. How much money are we going to spend to try to resurrect this project? The Sundance Institute cannot commit funds, the Kimball Arts center has no viable funds to support the project, and now someone wants to upend the current transit center to spend more money. We are putting bad money after bad money. How much can taxpayers take of this folly?
Has the writer tried to navigate Bonanza and Kearns during the hours of 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.? This clogged area will grind to a halt with a bus station added in the mix.
If more buses need to go to Kearns and Prospector, the schedule can be manipulated very easily.
If a concert venue is built and dining options are needed, current restaurants should be offered first choice to open satellite operations or food trucks to feed patrons.
Moving the transit center will cost millions of dollars. How much more money will be proposed to try to salvage a doomed project?
Development proposal falls short
After reviewing the plans that the developer submitted to the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission for Highland Flats I would have to recommend that they deny their request for a general plan amendment and rezone. The developer is counting on the need for affordable housing to push this poorly planned development through. In order to qualify for an amendment to the general plan and rezone the proposed amendment:
1. must not affect the existing character of the surrounding area
2. is consistent with the general land use map
3. is consistent with the uses of properties nearby
4. property is suitable for intensities of use which will be permitted on the properties.
5. will not adversely affect nearby properties and
6. public health and safety will not be adversely affected
I do not believe the plan meets any of these criteria. The area is rural residential with single-family homes on a minimum of 3/4 of an acre. The current zoning is for one unit per 20 acres and on the general land use plan it is slated as possible future open space. There are no sidewalks on our rural streets and this plan would likely double the traffic in the area that is sure to see another big increase as the Silver Creek Village starts to grow. Safety is a huge issue for the current residents.
Summit county needs affordable housing, but this is not an appropriate place for it. It takes at least an hour to ride the bus to Main Street or Deer Valley from here, so most of the residents would end up driving their own cars on our already-overcrowded streets. There is already about 1,300 affordable units slated for development in the county (this includes the employee housing being put in at Canyons Village). We need to get all of this built out and then find out where our needs are. Maybe rethink the arts and culture district to include more affordable housing there, which is at least near where the need is.
Coexist with bobcats, mountain lions
Bobcat and mountain lion sightings have been on the rise in Park City in the past few weeks. From doorbell cameras to back patios and residential streets, these cats have been observed in a variety of locations.
The wildland-urban interface of Park City provides so many of the benefits of living here. To coexist with creatures like bobcats and mountain lions is a special benefit of living in a place that offers attractive resources, but also brings a certain responsibility. Respecting wildlife and having the know-how to keep yourself and others safe is key in a place where interactions with wildlife may occur.
Bobcats can weigh up to 33 pounds, and mostly prey on rabbits, rodents and other small creatures. Mountain lions are larger, weighing 90-200 pounds. Mountain lions play a critical role in maintaining deer populations and can even be predated on by bear and wolves in some areas. Both are solitary hunters that prefer wild prey and can be found across the state in a variety of habitats — and have suffered from habitat loss and poaching by humans. Their thick fur is not only beautiful but keeps the animals toasty warm during the cold winter months. Big paws, like your powder skis, provide plenty of surface area for moving over snow efficiently.
How can we keep ourselves and our loved ones — both four legged and two — safe? Never approach or feed wildlife, and keep dogs leashed in designated areas. Don’t leave pet food outdoors and bring house cats inside at night or when there has been a sighting in your area. Don’t leave pets or small children outside unattended at dawn and dusk. In general, it’s a good idea to recreate outside without headphones, so you can hear your surroundings. If you encounter either animal — stop. Maintain eye contact, stand up tall and make yourself look larger than you are. Talk in a loud voice and back away slowly. With that in mind, we also know that mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, and bobcat attacks are virtually unknown. We can help to keep these numbers low by being smart in places where we coexist.
Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter conservation coordinator
Proposal doesn’t fit
The proposed Highland Flats development location on Highland Drive is a terrible idea. Proposed is a 410-unit, multi-story rental apartment complex on land currently zoned for very low density (potential open space) from the Snyderville Basin General Plan Future Use Land Map. Anyone who lives in the Snyderville Basin or travels on Highland Drive can see this project is not a good fit.
The developer is asking for rezoning and a change to the General Plan that elected officials approved in 2015. Why should one developer get to benefit from a zoning change that will hurt the hundreds of people already invested in the area for the rural residential zoning and thousands of people who use the Basin for recreation?
The developer provided the county an inaccurate traffic study from 2017 and admitted on the Feb. 23 Planning Commission public session that it did not look at any impact on Old Ranch Road. The additional traffic will disrupt any rural feel for the multi-use corridor for walkers, runners, hikers, bikers and horses.
The Summit Land Conservancy just spent millions of dollars to prevent the development of the Osguthorpe Farm in the Basin. Why would county government now think Highland Flats is a good idea?
The developer’s input at the meeting was full of old data and inaccuracies, pointed out by one of the commissioners and many of the residents during the meeting. I hope the planning commissioners will see this development proposal doesn’t fit into the General Plan already in place and will send a negative recommendation to the County Council.
If you care about the Basin, please make your feelings known to the Summit County Planning Department and Zoom into meetings that address this issue.
Lisa Busick Johnson
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Diane Thompson writes that City Hall should not be involved in financing or building an arts and culture district. Instead, it should sell the land to a developer to pursue the project.