Mayoral candidates discuss Park City’s future in debate

PARK CITY, Utah — In a mayoral debate hosted by the Park City Chamber of Commerce on Monday, incumbent Park City Mayor Andy Beerman and city council member Nann Worel faced questions about the City’s future and their strategy for the years ahead.

In their opening statements, Beerman highlighted the effect that COVID has had in making Park City more of a “lifestyle” community — referencing the remote workers that have migrated to the City. He said he wants to reduce local events by 25% so that locals can reclaim the town.

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Worel touched on the labor shortage that is hitting the area particularly hard, and emphasized other barriers for working families like childcare costs.

Mayor Beerman pushed back at Worel’s claims about the City having a strained connection with the Summit County Council, calling the relationship “highly functional.”

“We have example after example, working together on COVID, working together on transportation, working together on the Hideout litigation,” Beerman said. “Those relationships and personalities ebb and flow, but that hasn’t gotten in the way of us being able to work well together.”

When the candidates were asked to differentiate from one another, Worel said their most notable difference is leadership style and tone. She said she won’t let her ego get in the way, pointing to Beerman’s campaign ads that tout his term accomplishments.

“When you look at some of your ads, when you look at some of the things you’ve said, it’s like you’re taking credit for… a lot of things that the City has done,” Worel said.

In response, Beerman said, “everything is done as a group.” He referenced his endorsements from three sitting city council members.

Beerman said his defining leadership characteristic is his conviction, saying “I’m not afraid of tackling complex and difficult challenges and building coalitions.”

On the question of sustainable tourism, both candidates touched on housing.

Worel said the issue needs to be tackled in conjunction with the resorts. “We as a City need to work closely with the different properties in town and see how can we turn some of those short-term rentals into long-term.” She mentioned working with local businesses to help their employees find a home.

Beerman said housing “is on the edge of a crisis at this point.” He said it’s a “community problem” that requires the assistance of several parties — the county, the schools, the business community, and the Chamber.

“I think we need to value community over economy,” Beerman said. “If we do those two things, we’re going to continue to have an amazing town, and the tourists will come.”

Discussing the Arts and Culture District, both candidates conceded that the vision has shifted since the original commitment was made in 2017 with the Sundance Institute and the Kimball Arts Center.

“I think it’s critical that we sit down with them now and revisit that commitment, and then include the community in that conversation,” Worel said.

“I’d like to find a way the City can support them because I think they are going to be two of the key engines moving forward,” Beerman said.

The conversation then turned to the two projects currently in front of the Park City Planning Commission — the base area developments at Park City Mountain and Deer Valley.

As a former planning commissioner, Worel said her focus is on connectivity — “this is the time for us to step back and say, how do these all connect.”

Beerman expressed confidence in the planning commission’s decision-making, saying “it’s critical we get these two projects right.”

The transit discussion had a lot of ideas thrown around. Worel mentioned van shares from Salt Lake City for workers and creating more incentives to get locals on the bus.

Beerman said he wants to have micro-transit in Park City limits by the end of next year. He said the future is a combination of enhanced park-and-rides, dedicated bus lanes, increased walkability, and left the door open for aerial. He said it’s an interesting and controversial discussion that he’s looking forward to having with the community.

In closing, Beerman emphasized the climate crisis while Worel said she wants the City to tap the local human capital.

“Since the 70s we have lost six weeks of freezing temperatures, and we’ve had four times the number of days that are 90 degrees plus. So our town is changing and I think as the world gets more hot and crowded we’re still going to be a desirable place, but we’re going to have to adjust. Our ski seasons are going to be slower, which maybe means we do more biking, more golf, other activities. We talked about arts and culture as a way to prepare ourselves but I think we really need to start looking hard as a community, what our opportunities are going forward and start working towards those, because climate change is not coming, it’s here,” Beerman said.

“I have two master’s degrees and I’m the first one to tell you, I don’t have the expertise to negotiate multimillion-dollar deals on behalf of the City, and I daresay the incumbent doesn’t either. But we have residents that do have the expertise. In fact, we have residents that have trained the negotiators on the other side of deals the City is doing. So let’s tap into that, let’s put our egos aside and make sure that the best people are at the table to get the best outcome for the City. No one person has all the answers, but collectively we can move forward in a positive manner,” Worel said.

Both candidates endorsed both the school and open space bonds.

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