I’m for low growth
The common wisdom around our county is that growth is inevitable. I don’t believe that. We still have choices about what we allow here. We have choices about what it looks like.
I want to take a low-growth approach to Summit County. I want to make smart decisions that will help the east and west sides of the county be as desirable in 2030 and 2040, as they are now. However, there are forces at work that could make much of Summit County look like suburbs. I don’t believe we want our communities to look like Sandy or Draper.
No apartments on the open space next to Jeremy Ranch Elementary School
The area between Jeremy Ranch Elementary and Burt Brothers is called the Cline Dahle parcel. Summit County bought this parcel a couple of years ago and wants to put a Transit Oriented Development on the parcel. This likely means adding 600 or more apartments right next to the school. In talks I have had with County Council members about safety (due to the increased traffic in front of the school), they ensure me they can figure out how to make the road safe. I am not sure I believe that. As we have seen with Kilby Road, on the other side of I-80, things are complicated. Having hundreds of extra cars drive past our schools at 8AM is scary.
Another point is one that the County Council cannot talk about formally — impact on schools. Residents should consider how many additional children a development like this will add to our schools. Specifically, how many students would it add to Jeremy Ranch? Would Jeremy Ranch need to be expanded at a cost of ten to twenty million dollars? Is that a better use of our funds than tearing down Treasure Mountain Junior High? Would those Pinebrook students that currently go to Jeremy be forced into going to Parley’s Park? Would that have ripple effects? Likely.
I also believe developments like this take away from available water. We don’t have enough water now. We’ve heard stories of water company employees telling our neighbors they better get rid of their lawns because of water shortages. If we are in that dire of a state, how are we going to be able to find additional water sources for a development of this size? Where will the water come from? Existing residents are the most likely answer. What about agricultural land on the east side of the county? Are we going to use our limited water for new developments or are we going to preserve it? The answer seems straightforward.
Likewise, developments like this add to traffic issues. Unless Summit County prohibits parking on the parcel and makes it a bus only apartment complex, more cars will be added to our community. More cars will lead to more pollution. More cars will lead to more congestion. More cars will travel back and forth to Salt Lake. These things seem counterintuitive to what Summit County and Park City are trying to achieve.
Instead, I believe Summit County should consider making the land into a park for the people of PineBrook, Summit Park, and Jeremy Ranch. Perhaps it could be an amphitheater for concerts. Maybe we put a county-owned solar farm on it. Or maybe we just leave it as open space. All would be preferable to more development on this land.
No new entitlements should mean no new entitlements
On Bitner Rd., there is a proposed development with 5,000 square feet of commercial space and seventy-eight new units. The four acres of land is currently zoned Rural Residential which allows one house to built for every twenty acres. So, right now that would mean one house on the property. The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission has approved eighty times that level and included five thousand square feet of commercial space to boot.
In the original 2015 Snyderville Basin General Plan, it was proposed that no new entitlements would be allowed until existing entitlements were used up. This means that since there is a lot of development already approved in the Basin, the Planning Commission (and the public) generally didn’t want to allow more until those things were built. That makes sense. However, the County Council then inserted a provision that allows them to override this policy and enable additional development in cases where they want to.
If a developer is willing to provide additional affordable housing as part of the project, it seems that is enough to allow increased development. I’m not against affordable housing, but if believe we shouldn’t have more growth, why would we allow it for any reason?
Not to discount the need for affordable housing, but we should not go against our long-term planning to account for immediate issues. We need to determine what our community looks like and not allow knee-jerk reactions to influence that.
Stop the ripple effects
Every decision regarding development has ripple effects. If we add six hundred apartments next to Jeremy Ranch, that will impact the number of students, where students attend school, services provided, and taxes.
When the County Council agreed to a height exception for the 52,000 square foot, 45 foot tall building at the Gorgoza sledding hill, it set development in motion. By allowing the building, it likely enabled the project to happen. It has been reported that the public will lose access to the pond at Gorgoza. If that happens, it will be due to the ripple effects of the County Council enabling additional development. If trail access is limited as well, we can look back to that action too.
Another example of these effects is the Osguthorpe Ranch development near Old Ranch Road. The hundred and forty acres is currently a farm and will likely be sold. Given current zoning, the farm could be turned into seven or eight homes by a developer. Yet, Summit Land Conservancy is fighting a courageous battle to buy the land. One of the fears is that if the land is sold, the County, at their whim, could decide to rezone the property to allow thousands of apartments or really anything else. If there was a significant “public need” addressed like affordable housing or transportation, it’s conceivable that the County Council may allow nearly anything there.
Avoid additional urban sprawl
I don’t believe many of us want Summit County to become a series of Salt Lake suburbs. Yet, proposals like Marketplace Commons get us one step closer. This development would sit near the Home Depot on Highway 40. The idea is since there are already 1300 units planned to built in Silver Creek Village over the next twenty years, why don’t we continue that sprawl down the highway with another development.
Marketplace Commons includes one hundred seventy-eight residential units, a hundred thousand square feet of commercial space, and five hundred parking spaces. It would likely include a hotel, grocery store, and drug store according to the developer. Ideas like this cause a number of issues. First, they are approved in anticipation of what other development will mean. Often times, the future doesn’t turn out as planned. Second, it will likely only contribute to affordable housing issues. Each of these businesses will need employees. Those employees will need more affordable housing or will drive in from Salt Lake. If they drive in, it causes additional traffic problems. Regardless, it takes more water — which we don’t have.
No matter what, it contributes to sprawl down Highway 40 and it will be that much easier to connect Quinn’s Junction to the Home Depot with a series of strip malls. I don’t think we want that.
I believe in property rights. If someone has the current rights to develop land, then those rights should be preserved. However, at this point, I don’t believe in extending those rights in the Snyderville Basin. There may come a time when we as a community decide we need to increase development; however, I don’t believe that time is now in the Basin.
In other areas of the County, I look forward to discussing these type of issues with the citizens and mayors of our communities. There may be an appropriate time and place to allow increased development, but I want to ensure it is done right — with an eye to the future.