Tom Clyde: Zombies among us
March 27, 2015
There are zombies among us. Not the brain-eating-undead type. I mean zombie developments that are springing back from the dead everywhere. These are projects that got approved way back when, before the Great Recession, and sometimes before the Olympics. They have been there on the books, permits more or less approved, waiting to come back to life with the next full moon and improved credit conditions. Even those of us who pay attention to what’s going on have been taken by surprise with the number of them, and the velocity of building.
Summit County is in the final stages of approving Silver Creek Village. It vested years ago, and there isn’t much they can do now. There was a map on the front page a while ago showing the location. It’s between I-80 and the jail, and Burt Brothers and the sewer plant/rail trail. If the City has BoPa, the County will answer with this. It’s either BurPa, for Burt Brothers Park, or HoDePa, for Home Depot Park.
In terms of filling a need for reasonably priced housing, it’s almost a necessity. With houses in Prospector selling for a million bucks, the people who make the town function have few options. They can go highrise in the (so far) imaginary and oh-too-precious BoPa neighborhood, or head out to the nether ‘burbs. So it’s not necessarily a terrible idea.
On the other hand, it’s just freakin’ huge. It’s got 1,290 residential units, 50,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial space like a grocery store, and a laughably inadequate five-acre school site. If there are three people per dwelling, on average, it’s a population of 3,870. If that sounds like a lot, it is. It’s about twice the size of Kamas. If there are four people per household, it is bigger than Francis, Kamas, Oakley and Coalville combined.
I’ve looked at the plans for it. About 30 percent of it is parkland, with ball diamonds and playing fields. The layout is quite-typical suburban bliss, with a mix of single and multi-family housing. It looks like the kind of neighborhood that would be quite pleasant if the wind from the sewer plant is blowing the right way.
The plats show the road system through the development, down to the on-street parking zones. As the roads leave the development, there is an arrow, and the road and traffic from all 1,290 houses just vanishes into the white space on the page. Problem solved.
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All that traffic exits the HoDePa neighborhood on two narrow streets, which then converge at the Burt Brothers roundabout. County officials have said in public, without laughing out loud, that the roundabout is designed to handle it, plus all the un-built density in Promontory. Nobody has said that the on-ramps to Highway 40 can handle it. There will probably need to be cloverleaf where the Home Depot buffalo now roams.
Sooner or later, they will all join the morning mash-up on S.R. 248. And the solution to that is? If you have stuff to get from Home Depot, you’d best get at it soon if you want to beat the traffic.
The project is in the South Summit School District for reasons that made sense 75 years ago. That hasn’t been resolved, but for now, a child living there will have to hitch a ride to Kamas for school. The five-acre site won’t hold an elementary school; this project will need its own high school at build out. The approval really vested years ago, so you have to cut the current planners and council a little slack. But still
It will be entertaining to watch the developer try to convince the good people of Francis, Kamas, and Oakley to vote to raise their taxes to build new schools for HoDePa, or even cover the costs of running the school buses over there. I always thought there was a need for a connector road from Kamas to the Silver Creek area through Promontory, but that didn’t happen. But what’s a 40-minute bus ride in a well-planned community? They can wave at Trailside as they drive by. Consider yourselves lucky — the Deer Mountain kids get dragged all the way to Heber. There are discussions between the two school districts, but nobody really wants to take this on, with maybe a hundred million in school construction costs staring them in the face.
The project probably has a 15 to 20-year build out. So it won’t hit all at once. The impact is more like a gradual erosion of the quality of life than a landslide. The landslide is over the ridge in Wasatch County, where we will soon be welcoming about 30,000 new best friends. The approved density, and construction underway, around Jordanelle is nothing short of frightening.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.