Tom Clyde: The almost grand, almost opening
Last week, officials from Wasatch County held the grand not-quite-yet-opening for the Jordanelle Parkway.
Road cyclists have been eagerly eyeing this new road for a long time. It’s a connector that runs from the Mayflower exit on U.S. 40 to the Brown’s Canyon intersection on S.R. 248. It will allow traffic from either side of the reservoir to access the other side without having to go through congested Quinn’s Junction. As they continue to pack 20,000 units into the Jordanelle basin, it will become a vital transportation link in the area. Until it becomes completely choked with traffic, it will be a great bike ride. It’s scenic, got some fun terrain and is a lot safer than S.R. 248’s dump truck demolition derby.
Somehow, in the current fact-free world, it seems kind of fitting to have a grand opening for a road that isn’t really open. Maybe they can declare that the drought has ended, the pandemic has passed and Oreos are good for you. They said they wanted to hold the opening ceremony while the weather was good, even if the road isn’t open.
In a normal world, the project would have been built by Wasatch County. It serves several private developments in addition to the community in general. So it’s not a road that would normally have been built by the developers, though they would have contributed to the cost. It’s basic county infrastructure. But the Jordanelle basin exists in the Twilight Zone. Normal rules don’t apply. In this case, the road was built by the Military Installation Development Authority, MIDA, with money it borrowed from UDOT, because things aren’t growing fast enough in Wasatch County.
MIDA is an entity formed to help finance private projects around Hill Air Force Base when the nature of Hill’s mission changed years ago. There was a need to redevelop business facilities that supported the new functions of the base. You know, the basics like warehouses, machine shops, a ski resort at Mayflower and the Jordanelle Parkway winding through a bunch of single-family lots overlooking the reservoir 75 miles away from Hill AFB. There’s no better defense against a foreign military threat than a good view lot.
We can all take comfort in knowing that if the Chinese declare war, our defense posture will be almost stronger because of the almost-completed Jordanelle Parkway. In keeping with the long tradition of military procurement, MIDA is completing the road about 18 months behind schedule, and nobody’s talking about budget. Under normal conditions, there might be questions about delays and price, but not here. MIDA’s unelected board answers to nobody. Try to find a phone number for them.
All too soon, it will be possible to drive from a condo at Mayflower to the inevitable Arby’s at Richardson Flat in newly expanded Hideout, all without getting on either U.S. 40 or S.R 248. That’s probably a good thing for everybody. Except for the children in the Wasatch County schools, because, ultimately, the funding for this suburban military facility is being diverted out of local property taxes that would have otherwise gone to the county and school district.
Hideout went ahead with the annexation of Richardson Flat, though not without some wrinkles in it. The annexation appears to be complete, but the approval of the actual Tailings Pond Village development may be submitted to a referendum of Hideout voters. Summit County is still trying to sort out its options. There aren’t many. Whether there’s an Arby’s or not, there’s plenty of horsey-sauce here.
In other development news, PEG Companies, the developer of the PCMR parking lot project, said that approval of their project is critical for Park City to host the Olympics again. The developer may not be reading the community temperature correctly. While the 2002 Olympics was a great time, and coming after the 9/11 attack was exactly what the country and community needed, I wouldn’t bet on the community being willing to do it again. The growth binge that followed may have been inevitable, but I’m not hearing anybody saying we want to repeat that. PEG has enough problems on that project without wrapping itself in a future Olympic bid that may not have broad support.
So in Park City’s finest off-season tradition, we get a two-for-one — stopping the PEG project might also stop another Olympics and the development binge that follows. I haven’t really followed the details on the project. It’s like “Groundhog Day,” with development proposals coming in every 10 years or so that never come to fruition because the cost of replacing the parking is just too high. But I guess it could happen someday. To me the biggest mystery is why Vail Resorts would abandon the entrance to their resort to a third-party developer. It’s like a hotel turning the lobby over to somebody else to run.
Maybe they can find a way for MIDA to finance that one, too.
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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Tom Kelly’s weekly Ridgelines column returns, and with it his anticipation for a ski season that, in the spring, he wasn’t sure would happen.