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Summit County Council to Continue Talks on Mixed-Use Zoning After Lively Meeting

A public hearing hosted by the Summit County Council Wednesday on a proposed neighborhood mixed-use zone turned into a lengthy discussion.


Several speakers appeared at the virtual meeting to say that the new designation might spur growth – or could encourage misbehavior. 


In response, county officials said the proposal doesn’t rezone anything or create a new entitlement.


The County Council heard from ten people about the NMU proposal. The proposal has been spurred by developer Henry Sigg, who wants to build a prototype along the U.S. 40 Frontage Road near Home Depot.


However, the proposal also comes with a revision of the Snyderville Future Land-Use Map, with areas marked in red where an NMU development might happen.


Among the comments, Kathy Mears said she’s been lately drawn back into growth issues, because of items like the Dakota Pacific proposal at Kimball Junction, and the development considered by Hideout as an annexation into Summit County.


Now, she said the NMU proposal has her wondering.


“None of this seems to be being viewed in a holistic manner, but rather making these potential zones—and let’s just say all those zones eventually got approved for some type of multi-use development,” she said. “Are we talking residents of maybe ten, 15,000 more people on top of what’s already gonna happen at Silver Creek Junction, what’s happening because of Wasatch County?”


Mary Christa Smith didn’t object so much to the areas marked now as possible NMUs. But she asked what kind of unintended consequences might happen elsewhere.


“And when I look at the thoughtfulness of the zones in red, personally, in general I’m in alignment with those. But what I’m concerned about is the developer coming in, requesting a zone change to a mixed-use area, and then being able to apply the NMU in places that are not outlined in this map.”


Another speaker, former county commissioner and county councilor Sally Elliott, said she sees a lot of potential for growth, abuse and misbehavior.


In reply, council chairman Doug Clyde said that there’s absolutely nothing in the plan that says these areas will be rezoned. He told Elliott that they could only be considered for a change in zoning.


“If you read the general plan, you would realize, and you do know this actually—it is chock full of verbiage about the fact that we already have more units than we can shake a stick at,” he said. “And so it’s very hard under the current general plan to come up with a convincing argument that you should be allowed to upzone. And I agree, if we were zoning this, the potential abuse would be, for all intents and purposes, unlimited. But we’re not. We’re not rezoning. All we’re doing is showing the citizens of the county what future land uses may look like.”


Elliot responded with a reminder of her credentials.


“I clearly understand, Mr. Clyde,” she said. “I have been involved in this since before I first knew you. So give me a break here, and give me a few more weeks to think about this.”


Clyde said any rezone would have to get over the hurdle of Provision 2.3 in the Snyderville Code—which says the county can’t create new growth unless the applicant shows a compelling public benefit.


Clyde said they also received a letter from Park City Municipal, asking that the city’s annexation areas be excluded from any possibility of a mixed-use zone. However, Clyde and Deputy County Attorney Dave Thomas said that legally they can’t forbid any landowner from requesting a rezone.


Clyde said while any applicant can ask for a rezone, that doesn’t mean it would be granted.


“They can bring their own zoning to that,” he said. “They can say, ‘I want to apply for the nasty-developer zone. And the nasty-developer zone consists of the following. All buildings will be no less than 1,000 feet tall, and they’ll be painted pink.’ You can apply for that. That’s the law. The probability of that getting approved, of course, is slim to very slim, or none at all.”


Council Member Roger Armstrong said he was hearing a lot of fear in the comments Wednesday, but the NMU is just a tool to give them better control over development.


He added that the rezone would have to meet certain criteria. It would have to be designated for mixed use on the map; it would have to be adjacent to existing commercial or institutional development or be a redevelopment of it; and would have to be along a transit route accepted by the county.


Still, the Council heard from Myles Rademan, who said he was agitated, like a lot of other people, by the apparent new reality. And he said while the NMU plan isn’t a re-zoning, it is a pre-zoning.


“I would just be very cautious about this because the developers, again, that we face, and we will face a deluge of them, who are very well-financed, who want to, in a way, parasite off of the great planning and the open space bonds we’ve passed, and the trails we’ve put in—they really are coming to take advantage of that,” Rademan said. “And they’re proposing very, very high urban densities in order to make their things pencil out for themselves. So I’m just suggesting to my elected representatives, who I love and trust, be very skeptical of the pretty pictures, of the great words, of all the things that we think will happen because in reality, it doesn’t always work out the way it is on the plan.”


The council voted to continue discussion of the proposal at its meeting on Sept. 9.

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.