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Park City officials unhappy with bill reducing local land use control

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson attempted to move forward an amendment tailored to Park City homeowner Matthew Prince's renovation plans despite an audible majority of nay votes. Wilson was then directed to do a formal vote count, in which the nays prevailed.
Utah Legislature
Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson attempted to move forward an amendment tailored to Park City homeowner Matthew Prince's renovation plans despite an audible majority of nay votes. Wilson was then directed to perform a formal vote count, in which the nays prevailed.

Park City government voiced strong opposition Friday to a bill in the Utah Legislature that would end local control over vacation home companies, and other language that would allow an Old Town homeowner to expand their home in violation of local building codes.

Senate Bill 271, sponsored by Sen. Mike McKell of Spanish Fork, initially caught the city’s attention because it would override an ordinance the Park City Council passed last year restricting co-owned homes to specific areas of the city. McKell is the brother-in-law of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

Other resort communities like Moab have considered similar regulations to control the use of vacation homes offered by online companies like Pacaso, which help people buy portions of multi-million dollar homes — sharing them with anywhere from one to seven other owners.

Another provision alarming city leaders - that would let an Old Town resident expand their home without city approval - got folded into SB 271 Friday morning by floor sponsor Rep. Val Peterson of Orem. However, that amendment was voted down.

During the debate over the amendment, Rep. Doug Owens of Millcreek asked Rep. Peterson: “Is there anything in this that came out of another bill this morning that relates to the placement of allowing a specific resident in Park City to bypass local authority for the construction of a home?”

Rep. Peterson replied saying, “I’m not aware of any language that came out of another bill that’s in this bill.”

House Speaker Brad Wilson rolled his eyes following a shout of “nay” votes on the amendment that was noticeably louder than the “yea” votes. He proceeded to say the motion passed after that but was then alerted that a formal vote was required due to the amount of opposition. The formal vote on the amendment was 42 against and 30 for.

The property the city believes the amendment is targeting belongs to tech billionaire Matthew Prince, who owns land at the top of Treasure Hill, which Park City spent $64 million to preserve in 2019.

Prince submitted plans to the Park City Planning Commission late last year to build a larger home than what is currently allowed, along with a pool and garage. City planning staff laid out several requirements to move forward, as his project plans aren’t allowed under current land use rules.

The planning commission ended up delaying action on Prince’s request after he asked it to hold off.

Prince co-founded and is CEO of Cloudflare, an internet infrastructure and cybersecurity company that went public in 2019. According to Forbes, his net worth is roughly $2.3 billion.

Prince could not be reached for comment.

Cloudflare was listed as a client of state lobbyist Lincoln Shurtz on Feb. 17. Language allowing Prince’s home-building was inserted into a bill the same day he hired the lobbyist.

The provision tailored to Prince’s property initially showed up in House Bill 406, sponsored by Stephen Whyte of Mapleton.

As of Friday afternoon, the original SB 271 (without the Prince provision) is headed to the governor's desk after the House passed it in a 56-13 vote.

Rep. Mike Kohler, who represents Park City, argued against the bill during debate. He said the problem with companies like Pacaso is how they impact longstanding residential neighborhoods that aren’t transient.

“There’s no consistency,” Kohler said. “Sometimes there are nuisance problems with noise. It just changes a community.”

He said he also opposed the state getting involved with local zoning.

Park City officials feared the language regarding the Prince property could still end up in another bill, but it did not.

Park City Mayor Nann Worel issued a statement condemning the amended bill as it was originally written Friday morning. She said the bill “sets not one, but two very unfortunate precedents.

“First it changes local land use laws to commercialize our primarily single-family residential neighborhoods. Second, it now includes language elevating one neighbor’s interests over the interests of all others.

“Park City works hard to preserve our neighborhoods, historic downtown, and sensitive lands through community-led zoning. No rational explanation has been offered as to why the State Legislature would disrupt the balance of residential life, interfere with a 30-year-old development agreement, and jeopardize municipal zoning.

“This bill is overt legislative overreach and includes special treatment of one resident over the community.”

When the Park City Council passed an ordinance regulating fractional ownership in October 2022, Pacaso co-founder and CEO Austin Allison called it a “big step forward,” as the company said Park City was the first place in the country to legally define co-ownership of homes and regulate its use.

“This is the first time state legislators have passed co-ownership legislation, but won’t be the last,” Pacaso co-founder and CEO Austin Allison said in a statement.

“We are grateful to the Utah legislature for recognizing the value and legality of co-ownership. This bill reaffirms that individuals, friends, and families have the right to co-own and enjoy a home together without interference.”

The bill follows a trend of the Utah Legislature stripping local governments' power over land use decisions. Summit County officials have repeatedly balked at Senate Bill 84, which would give Dakota Pacific Real Estate the ability to build a mixed-use development in Kimball Junction without county council approval. Locals have vehemently opposed the project for years.