Tom Clyde: Real estate news
September 23, 2018
I've suspected for a long time that the world has slipped a cog and has been wobbling out of orbit for a while now. This last week has provided some additional proof of my theory. My house is in a neighborhood of mostly 60-year-old vacation cabins that adjoin the family ranch. There are about 60 lots in the area. Most of them are now into a third generation, and only about half built on. Most people bought two and have no intention of selling the vacant lot. Next door is another neighborhood of about 30 slightly older cabins. For the past 65 years, people living in both neighborhoods have walked freely up and down the road along the riverbank, enjoying the view and fishing.
There's a big fishing hole that is also a great place to swim and play in the river that is just beyond the boundary, in Plat 1. I'm in Plat 2. For reasons that remain unclear, and despite logic and reason, the barricades are up and people are forbidden to cross the border under threat of arrest. It seems like an episode of "Seinfeld," where Jerry's father on the HOA board gets a bad case of "You kids get off my lawn!"
In the same week the war erupted between Plats 1 and 2 over closing the border, Outside magazine published an article about a new app that helps vacationers connect with adventure guides in Utah and Colorado. It sounded like it was mostly about booking a ski instructor without paying the resorts' prices, but the photo of the app on somebody's phone showed "fly fishing on the upper Provo River" as the desired adventure. So while the neighbors in Plat 1 are stringing up the razor wire to prevent incursions from Plat 2, there are "guides" who will take the general public right to the contested fishing hole for $150 a day.
Also in the last week, one of the vacation cabins sold for well over a million bucks. This is the second sale in that price range in less than a year, and there was a house that surely cost that much built on a lot where the old house was scraped off. I realize that a million bucks isn't much by Park City standards. But for a neighborhood with small lots, dirt roads, marginal snow plowing, unreliable utilities and grumpy neighbors in Plat 1, it's shocking.
I mean, who could enjoy the solitude of 50 acres of real wilderness property if you have to fly in to Heber and drive 20 minutes?”
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It's a very nice house, no doubt about it. It's probably a lot nicer than that shack the school district bought for the superintendent to live in. I mean what kind of employee relations does that show, expecting the superintendent to live in some $870,000 double-wide? The granite countertops are probably 2014 colors. But to have houses in my neighborhood selling at the price of 1.5 superintendent houses is alarming.
I was just getting myself collected from the jolt of realizing that my house is a teardown in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood (I always keep an old tractor parked on the front lawn for defensive purposes), when another neighbor called. This guy has a few 10-acre lots that adjoin the ranch on the other side. They are very pretty, but the terrain is such that even with 10 acres, the houses will all end up close enough that they might as well be on an acre. He had a potential buyer who was so in love with the idea of owning a building lot in the wilderness that he was going to buy all of them, price be damned. He didn't want any loud or obnoxious neighbors to spoil the seclusion of the place.
The only hangup with the deal was that he wanted to buy some adjoining flat land from me. He wanted to build an airstrip. I mean, who could enjoy the solitude of 50 acres of real wilderness property if you have to fly in to Heber and drive 20 minutes? The need for a landing strip was obvious, even if the irony was not.
What are these people thinking? There isn't enough flat land there to build a runway long enough for a private jet. So by building a short runway on the available property, the guy would be admitting to all the world that he is not now, and probably never will be, in the private jet league. Propeller trash. I was more than happy to spare him from that humiliation by refusing to discuss a sale.
Meanwhile, Wasatch County has approved the Mayflower development adjoining Deer Valley. It's 1,970 equivalent residential units, which is Wasatch County's currency for density. There's kind of a foreign exchange issue converting it to Park City or Summit County units, but the end result is basically building a second Deer Valley on Highway 40. It won't happen overnight, and there's no airstrip involved. But yikes!
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.
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