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Former County Commissioner Lays Out Case For Concern About Dakota Pacific

The public is again being invited to give their opinions about the massive Dakota Pacific application proposed for Kimball Junction.

A former Summit County Commissioner is advising the citizens not to give up, but show up for the electronic meeting hosted Tuesday by the Snyderville Planning Commission. 

The applicants from Dakota Pacific are proposing a mixed commercial/residential neighborhood on the land where the Summit Research Park was approved for the Boyer Company in 2008.

But Bob Richer, who was on the County Commission that approved the Tech Park, says he’s concerned about traffic generated from the new plan; he wonders if its affordable housing will be as beneficial as promised; and he thinks the Dakota project won’t advance the goals of the Kimball Junction Master Plan, but just compound existing problems.

He said the growth of the Tech Park over the last 12 years has been slow, not through any fault of the community.    For one thing, the recession followed soon after the project’s approval.

He said some of the restrictions in the 2008 plan could be loosened.   But he said the Tech Park shouldn’t become a sacrificial lamb.

And Richer said a slow build-out, over as much as 30 or 40 years, can be a positive thing.   But he said Dakota Pacific’s plan would accelerate growth.

Dakota Pacific is proposing nearly 1.3 million square feet, and the applicants say that isn’t increasing the density, just changing it.

But Richer says there should be a careful calculation of the density okayed in 2008, which he thinks was more like 1 million square feet.     

“In 2008, the number that was bandied about for the commercial area was 1 million square feet.  I’m not sure how it got to a million, 295.  Planner Kirsten Whetstone, at the last meeting, addressed what I had raised at the June 23rd meeting, which was that there is in the 268-page development agreement, there is no, on no particular page does it say, “Here’s the square footage”  What you have to do is, you have to calculate each specific parcel.  In 2008, our planning staff supplied us with a number of approximately a million square feet.”

If Dakota is increasing density, he argued,  it has to comply with Section 2.3 of the Snyderville Code, and provide a compelling public benefit for the added square footage.

Richer also questioned if Dakota’s planned 1100 residences is meeting the needs of affordable housing.    He said the average service-level wage here is $44,000.        

“Those people can’t qualify for affordable housing based on an AMI—Average Median Income—of $91,000 for a family of 4, which is basically 80 percent of our Median Household Income of about $114,000.  The AMI is based upon average income for Summit County residents.  About 15,000 of us commute to Salt Lake City for higher-paying jobs to afford to live in Park City.  And that raises the AMI.  So affordable housing at the Tech Park won’t, in my opinion, reduce traffic.   The folks who can afford the units will commute to work elsewhere.  Meanwhile, the jobs created by the new hotel will not provide an income where people can afford the units.   So they too will live elsewhere and commute.”

He asked, is the project really solving a problem?      

“The tail here is wagging the dog.  We’re talking about affordable units of 256, I think was the number, between 40 and 80 percent.   Well, once you get to that 80 percent, you’re talking rents of, for a two-bedroom, over $2000 per month; for a three-bedroom almost $2300 per month.  It somewhat compares to the market.”    

Richer also argued that they shouldn’t exacerbate traffic problems with the Dakota plan when the major problems at the Kimball interchange haven’t been solved.   

He said the Kimball redevelopment could take years of planning by UDOT and the county, and could cost upwards of $50—100 million.         

“UDOT has what’s called the STIP, the State Transportation Improvement Plan.  It takes years to get on that, and then it takes years to move your project along.  When I was a County Commissioner, we’ve worked with UDOT.   It takes many years behind the scenes.   You need a lot of time and you need a lot of money.   And what we don’t, in my opinion, want to do is exacerbate the problems at the Junction until we have this plan in place.”

Richer agreed that the developers aren’t obligated to solve the global problems at Kimball Junction.   But at the same time, the county isn’t obligated to go beyond what it has previously approved.

“And we don’t have to do anything to stimulate growth in that area.  It is what it is.   The developer bought this, Dakota Pacific bought this from the Boyer Company.   They certainly bought it with their eyes wide open.  There’s certainly a degree of risk here.   And when there’s a lot of risk, there can also be reward.  And that’s kinda just how it works.”

Former Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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