PARK CITY, Utah — In an interview with the Bipartisan Policy Center on Tuesday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox made reference to a four-line provision in the major housing bill passed in the state legislature earlier this year that incentivizes development in Kimball Junction.
The law pushes Summit County to include a housing and transit reinvestment zone (HTRZ) as a strategy within the Snyderville Basin General Plan and to approve and submit a proposal to the director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (GOEO) by December 31, 2022.
An HRTZ is a mechanism from the GOEO that pushes the Utah Department Of Transportation (UDOT) to prioritize local improvements. It was created by the Legislature last year. UDOT is triggered in the program because of the added density the required development brings.
Last year, Salt Lake City-based developer Dakota Pacific was in front of the Summit County Council with a project that would have brought over 1,000 housing units to the area of Kimball Junction by the Skullcandy building. After heavy community outcry at a December meeting, the developer paused its plans.
The county has received a new proposal, however, the formal approval process has not begun.
County councilman Glenn Wright has said that because of the company’s lobbying efforts, he will not vote on the development.
“We had a big housing project up in Summit County, which is near Park City, which is one of our least affordable communities for obvious reasons… this was a project that they tried to approve several times and it’d been held up and the legislature actually did step in in this case and say ‘no, we’re going to approve this project and make this project happen,'” the governor said.
“That’s kind of the most forceful the legislature has been,” he said, calling the move “fairly controversial.”
“We’ll see how that pans out.”
Earlier in the discussion, Cox said he’s had discussions with some local leaders (there was no reference made to Summit County) in which they have said, “I can’t say this publicly, but we need this development. We need a place for our kids and grandkids to live.”
The governor said the state’s housing problems revolve around supply, and noted that short-term rentals have exacerbated the issue.
“That’s not something that we’ve kind of figured out yet — how to get our arms around that,” Cox said, referencing both Airbnb and VRBO. “I’m a private property rights person, and so I don’t like to tell people they can’t do those types of things with their property. But, it is an issue and I think it’s an issue we need to talk about more.”
He said the state needs dense housing, but noted that infrastructure must come first.
“If density comes before infrastructure, the quality of life goes down,” Cox said. “But if infrastructure comes first and then density follows, the quality of life can stay high.”
Summit County’s lack of infrastructure for such a large housing development in Kimball Junction was county councilman Roger Armstrong’s key point of dissent against the Dakota Pacific project last year.
The full discussion: