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Entertainment center proposal shines light on parking requirements in Heber

Avon Theatre is located at 94 South Main Street, two blocks south of Ideal Theatre.
Ben Lasseter
[FILE] The Ideal Theatre is located at 113 North Main Street in Heber City.

With support from Heber City government leaders, a proposal to transform an old theater into an entertainment center could lead the city to loosen parking regulations.

A Heber City man says now is the time to create fun things to do on Main Street, and he has a plan for one historic building. That would require an exception from current parking rules or change to how they work in Heber, and city planning commission members said on Tuesday they were interested.

Jeremy Smith recently told the city council he’s buying the old Ideal Theatre and wants to turn it into an entertainment center with an arcade and performance hall. On Tuesday, he told the planning commission the goal is to create a business that would bring more life and fun to the area.

“I personally have a very vested interest in downtown with a couple developments I’m working on currently,” Smith said. “I think downtown has so, so, so, so much potential. I would love to work with the city to create something where we have foot traffic coming downtown — we have people that come into Heber and they are in downtown and then they go out and ski, or they mountain bike, or they ATV — but the parking is the issue. I mean, I want to make this as awesome as possible and have our youth out of their houses and doing active things.”

On February 7, Heber City Council members said they were interested in the idea. Some such as Mike Johnston said it was a good enough idea that it superseded the parking concerns. He argued Heberites already make do with a shortage of parking spaces for events such as the Thursday Market on Main in the summer.

Because the idea includes adding a second floor and more square footage, city code requires the business to provide new parking — about 75 spaces, according to city planners at Tuesday’s meeting.

City planner Jamie Baron described two options to allow Smith to carry out his idea. He said both align with the city council’s recent directives to find a way around the parking requirement.

First, the city could approve a development agreement and allow Smith an exception to the rule. When planning commissioner Oscar Covarrubias asked if that would set a bad precedent, Baron said the city can still handle future applications on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re not required to give anybody else a development agreement just because we gave somebody else one,” Baron said. “We look at it — what are the merits? Then we find that it’s something that benefits the city and is something that we think is good, or do we find that its merits are not good, right? And so, we judge it by its merits.”

Another option is to change the city zoning laws. Planning commissioners said in the future, they might look at making parking requirements depend on how much traffic a business is expected to generate, not the square footage of its building.

The planning commission didn’t take action at the meeting, but Smith and city staff said they’d work together on a proposal to bring back for the formal approval process. That hasn’t been scheduled for a future meeting yet.

If the planning commission makes recommendations about Smith’s proposal or parking rules overall in the future, the city council would have to vote to confirm them.

This is a developing story. KPCW will continue to provide updates as they become available.

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