Record editorial: Officials should stay the course at the Park City Tech Center
For months, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission has been considering a proposal from developers who want, essentially, to build a new neighborhood west of S.R. 224 at the site of the Park City Tech Center.
The application envisions a radical change from what is currently allowed on the land, calling for 1,100 residential units along with a hotel, office buildings and limited retail space, altogether encompassing nearly 1.6 million square feet of development, including a proposed 306 affordable housing units.
The planning commissioners, tasked with forwarding a recommendation about the project to the Summit County Council, do not face a difficult decision. Nor will the elected officials when they take up the application.
Put simply, there’s nothing in the proposal that warrants throwing out the standing development agreement, which is narrowly tailored to tech uses, in favor of what the developer, Dakota Pacific Real Estate, is offering.
The proposal has drawn public interest from the start due to its sheer size and its prominent location in Kimball Junction. Residents who have weighed in so far, most notably during a public hearing late last month, seem to agree that the project is ill-suited for the location.
Critics have raised justifiable concerns about the traffic impact of so many residential units being built right off one of the most problematic stretches of S.R. 224. Studies have shown the road is already nearing failure — a conclusion any rush-hour commuter would also reach — and the affordable housing perk alone is not enough to outweigh those considerations. It appears unlikely that carrots the developer initially dangled in front of the county like gondola connections or a below-ground bus rapid transit hub have any real chance of coming to fruition, and certainly not without millions of dollars of taxpayer money.
To be clear, those who want to see the land remain untouched in perpetuity are in for eventual disappointment. The developers are not actually seeking more density on the land beyond what is already allowed.
So it’s not a matter of whether growth will come, but rather of what kind — and when.
Regarding the latter, Bob Richer, a former county commissioner who played a central role in the creation of the Park City Tech Center in 2008, made a compelling point during the recent public hearing: Leaving the current agreement intact is likely to delay full build-out for years, if not decades, given the slow pace of development in the 12 years since the Tech Center was approved.
As for the question of what kind of development is best suited for the site, the prospect of diversifying the Park City-area economy and attracting higher-paying jobs remains appealing, even if the original vision of a bustling tech hub hasn’t yet come to fruition.
Compared to the project the developer is offering, it’s better to stay the course.
And that’s exactly what the Planning Commission, and ultimately the Summit County Council, ought to do.
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