Letter to the editor: An open letter to the Summit County Council from Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City
We hope you are having a good start to 2023, and we appreciate your time and service to the community. As you know, Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City (FRD) is a fully volunteer non-profit organization, with a charter to inform, educate, and support responsible development and affordable housing in Summit County and greater Park City. While we understand some people may disagree with some of our positions, our aim is to reach out, align, and unite community sentiment related to development applications, especially those that will alter the fabric of our community.
As the Council is now engaging Dakota Pacific and the community in a process that will ultimately lead to a vote on whether to approve or deny Dakota Pacific’s application for the Tech Center land, we believe it is important to remind Council of a few critical points.
● A Critical Once-In-A-Generation Decision for This Council – This project – if approved – will fundamentally transform the gateway to Park City and the experience of living here for decades to come. Indeed the decision to approve or deny this billion dollar project may well be the most consequential decision to be made by this Council during its term, and perhaps for many terms to come. As a result, we believe it should be made with the utmost care, consideration, and diligence.
● Ongoing Strong Public Opposition And The Need For Extra Community Input – We believe the exceptionally strong opposition to this project within the community, as well as an unfortunate though widely-held perception that the Council is “in the developer’s back-pocket,” places a particularly powerful obligation on the Council to ensure i) that the process is extremely transparent, and ii) that there is opportunity for community input that goes above and beyond what would be typical for an average development proposal. Given what is at stake – and the fact that it took Dakota Pacific over a year to submit a revised proposal – there is no need to rush the public process. To do so would be to do a great disservice to the community and to undermine your standing as our elected representatives. Regarding the near-term process, we wish to make a number of points and requests in the interest of ensuring the best possible process and outcome for all involved.
● Reschedule The Traffic Study Presentation So More Can Attend – The traffic that will be created by this project is without a doubt one of the most important considerations. As a result, we believe that the presentation of Dakota Pacific’s traffic study, and the county’s peer review of that study, should not be presented at 3:45 in the afternoon on a weekday when virtually no one from the public can attend. Although public notice requirements do not apply in this situation, the community should be given two week’s notice of this meeting to maximize awareness and attendance. If it is held on February 8th, we believe In the interest of transparency and an open public process that it is in the Council’s best interest to move this agenda item to a time in the evening when the public is able to attend. We also encourage the Council to extensively advertise this agenda item on local media in the days leading up to the meeting.
● Reschedule And Hold Multiple Open Houses – We believe that an open house can be a good way for the community to learn about Dakota Pacific’s new proposal, and for their team to obtain input and feedback. However, providing the community with less than 3 business days notice is insufficient to ensure all interested parties are aware and can attend. We strongly encourage the Council to move the open house out several weeks, to extensively advertise it on local media, and to hold at least two and potentially three open houses to ensure the public has ample opportunity to attend. While this is likely more community engagement than is typical, the scale and consequences of this project we believe merit the extra sessions.
● Offer Open House For Our Group And Others – Since the Council is effectively sponsoring what will inevitably be a “pro-development” open-house for Dakota Pacific, we respectfully request to know if and when other groups can hold their own open houses regarding the Tech Center, with Council support, to express well thought out and detailed alternative points of view.
● Seek Planning Commission Review – Dakota Pacific stated during their presentation on February 1st that they had made major changes to their project. Given that statement, and our own review of the project, we believe that Council should send the project back to Snyderville Basin Planning Commission for their review. In the event that the Council is not intending to do so, we believe that the Council would be well-served to explain their rationale for not doing so to the community.
● Develop And Share An Overall Project Review Process – Given the considerable talents and experience of members of the Council and County Staff, we believe it would be relatively straightforward to lay out a process and timeline that would move this project toward a final vote before the Council. A well thought-out process and timeline that all parties, especially the community, can refer to and rely upon, would be an extremely valuable tool that would build trust and ensure the best possible outcome. Note: Park City Schools will be on recess for February break from February 18 – 26, so we believe the Council would be well-served not to hold any public meetings, hearings, or open houses related to this project during this period.
Additionally, we wish to share some initial thoughts with the Council based upon the revised proposal presented by Dakota Pacific on February 1st.
● A “Still Massive” Project That Is Inconsistent With Approved Uses – We encourage the Council not to focus on the fact that the developer has scaled-back their proposal (a time-tested sleight-of-hand used by developers to win approvals), but instead to focus on the fact that the project remains massive and still represents an unqualified and unjustified deviation from the approved land use plan per the currently governing development agreement for the tract. Council must therefore not approve this project in the absence of overwhelming community benefits that justify the deviation from the existing approved uses. And in the event that any Council member does vote to approve, we respectfully request that they go on record stating what those benefits are.
● Lots of Ideas, No Commitments – It was not lost on us – and we expect that it was not lost on the Council either – that Dakota Pacific presented lots of ideas, including various types of senior housing and recreational amenities – that were possibilities but not commitments. We believe that all of these items are being used as enticements to secure your vote, but that are extremely unlikely to ever be built.
● New Community Benefits That Are Radically Deficient – The inclusion of a few pickleball courts, a small interior park, and a possible (no commitment) climbing gym are hardly sufficient community benefits to justify a wholesale change in the carefully considered and previously approved use of this land.
● The Disastrous Precedent That Will Be Set By An Approval – We ask each Council Member to consider the exceptionally damaging precedent that will be set in the event of a decision to approve this project. If Dakota Pacific can get the Council to ignore a previously well-considered land use plan, why shouldn’t all other developers expect the same? What value will any of Summit County’s land use policies have in the event that the Council discards the Tech Park plan in favor of an entirely different project that is not only far from having overwhelming community benefit, but in truth has overwhelming community opposition?
We welcome your responses to our questions, and appreciate your service.