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Record-setting crowd has a message on Kimball Junction development: 'No.'

Dakota Pacific meeting

For five hours Wednesday evening, the Summit County Council heard from dozens and dozens of people about the proposed large-scale residential development at Kimball Junction. By a four-to-one margin, their message was the same: Just say no.

As the setting sun etched the Park City ridgeline darker against a deep blue sky, more than 200 red-clad community members set off from a rally outside Maxwell’s. They were heading to a public input session at the Newpark Hotel, intent on giving the Summit County Council a piece of their minds.

Their numbers were exceeded by those who attended online; the Zoom meeting’s audience surpassed 550 at its height. All told, the county council meeting approached 900 participants, something officials said surely broke records.

At issue is a proposal to build what would essentially be a new neighborhood at Kimball Junction: 1,100 homes, a hotel and office buildings on undeveloped land near the SkullCandy headquarters below the Utah Olympic Park.

Gary Peacock, a Snyderville Basin resident who helped lead opposition to the project in recent months, told councilors it was their duty to reflect the will of the people.

“We assume 100% of the risk after you vote yes on this,” Peacock said. “So I ask you to please vote no. Respect the will of the people that put you in those chairs.”

Public sentiment against the project has been growing steadily in recent months, though a smaller contingent has opposed the project since it was first raised in 2019. As of Thursday, nearly 4,000 people had signed an online petition against it.

The county rented what it called the largest conference space in Kimball Junction to hold the meeting, but it wasn’t big enough. About 50 people were turned away by Sheriff Justin Martinez due to the room’s occupancy limit.

The crowd was mostly respectful, cheering for comments opposing the development, which were by far in the majority. Some who expressed supportive views — or merely ambivalent ones — said what they called the opposition’s “mob mentality” didn’t represent Park City community values.

Opposition comments centered around three main themes: traffic, water and congestion. Many said they didn’t see an upside to the project. A handful also expressed support for the existing Tech Center plan.

The developers, Dakota Pacific Real Estate, purchased about 60 acres from the Boyer Company in late 2018. That land is referred to as the Tech Center and is governed by a 2008 agreement with Summit County that restricts what can be built there to tech-related office buildings and smaller support businesses.

Dakota Pacific is asking to change that agreement to build, instead of an office park, a mostly residential project. The developers say a key benefit of the project is its ability to secure what is called an HTRZ, or Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone. If state officials grant that designation, the Utah Department of Transportation would be compelled to prioritize associated transit projects.

The project could spur costly traffic fixes to Kimball Junction the county couldn’t undertake alone, proponents say.

Commenters last night, including Craig Kelly, said that wasn’t enough — and the County Council had not listened as members of the public repeatedly told them so.

“What it feels like is the Council's not doing a very good job of pretending that anything that we say matters. And, you know, I will say it feels slightly different tonight, but that has been my feeling throughout this process,” Kelly said. “… It makes me sad and frustrated and I think it entrenches all of us further in our opposition to this project when it seems like we're meandering through, you know, incoherent arguments or wishful thinking towards a preordained outcome. That's kind of what this has felt like over the past couple months.”

Many commenters also doubted the wisdom of adding more traffic to Kimball Junction in the hopes that it would cause UDOT to come in and fix it.

And nearly all the commenters cited Utah’s drought and the lack of available water as reasons not to entitle more growth.

Among the roughly 80 comments, about 15 supported the project. The support focused mainly on the project’s affordable housing component. Of the 1,100 homes, developers are proposing that 336 of them be earmarked for workforce housing.

Around 9 p.m., the youngest speaker of the night took the mic. Emily O’Hara said she was in fourth grade at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School.

“I was born here and I love this area and I'm afraid this project will destroy its natural beauty,” she said. “I'm afraid the traffic and already overcrowded schools will be made worse. I'm asking you to please vote no.”

No councilor moved for a vote. Council Chair Glenn Wright has told KPCW he anticipated the council would make a decision by the end of the year.

Opponents have hired an attorney and said they would pursue legal strategies to stop the project if it is approved. They've said that could include a lawsuit or voter referendum.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.