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Affordable Housing and Dark Sky Recommendations on the Table For Planning Commission This Week

photo looking up Park City's Main Street. businesses on either side with cars moving down a two lane road

The Park City Planning Commission has two major topics on their agenda for their Wednesday night meeting. Changes to the city’s building code to incentivize more affordable housing development and a recommendation to city council for a dark sky ordinance are both up for discussion.


Affordable housing has been a buzz-phrase as of late in Park City, and for good reason. According to Zillow, the average home in Park City sells for just about $1 million, pricing many would-be residents and current workers out of home ownership in the community. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed just how many people live on the financial edge when it comes to essential expenses like housing and food.


In an effort to bring more affordable housing opportunities to the city, city government is currently looking into a series of incentives that would make affordable housing development more appealing to builders hoping to have projects in Park City.


City council saw a presentation from Habitat for Humanity on affordable housing in October and the planning commission is holding a work session on proposed changes to the city’s building code this week.


Park City Planner Rebecca Ward told KPCW the city is looking at extending incentives to developers who might not be thinking of building affordable housing.    


“Right now, the way that it’s written in the code, and it’s been this way since 1984, is that this code is intended for projects that are one-hundred percent affordable,” Ward said. “But one of the things that we’re looking into, and this was proposed back in 2018 is to allow for a mix of affordable and market rate units in order to use this code and the density bonus. So that is one of the factors we are looking into as we evaluate ways to incentivize private development and public-private partnerships to develop affordable housing.”


Ward said there actually have not been any developments in Park City that use the city’s current affordable housing code.


The incentives being considered on Wednesday include reducing building setback requirements, reducing open space requirements, increasing maximum building height by a story, and loosening the amount of off-street parking required for new development if 50% of the project is affordable housing. 


Ward said these changes would likely not apply to Old Town or residential areas in Park City. The hope is that if the changes are ultimately approved by city council, developers will be more inclined to add affordable housing to their future projects.


If the planning commission does decide to move forward, the commission hopes to send a full recommendation with new building code to city council by early 2021 at the latest.


Also on the planning commission’s agenda is a recommendation to city council for changes to the city’s outdoor lighting regulations. The city used a community survey to help determine what changes should be made and Ward said the feedback has been positive.


“We’ve had a great response so far,” said Ward. “We’ve had almost 300 responses and it’s helped us shape the code that we’re bringing before the commission tomorrow night.”   


Park City’s current outdoor lighting regulations have been in place since 1998 and are due for a modernization. The changes include setting a maximum brightness for outdoor lights, regulating their harshness -- which is also known as their temperature -- and fully shielding lights so they don’t shine directly into the sky.


The new regulations would align Park City with Summit County’s own regulations, as well as international dark sky standards for outdoor lighting.


Ward said for the average home, complying with the changes will likely require minimal investment, but for commercial properties and larger projects, the costs could be significant.


Ward said the city is also considering grant programs for individuals who can show a need for financial assistance in order to comply with the regulations.


“We’re looking into potential grants if there are properties that could show economic hardship,” she said. “So, we’ll see what the commission and the council say on whether this should apply retroactively to existing properties.”


Park City has opted out of adopting dark sky regulations for recreational lighting like those found at sports fields. The city says this is because they are already required to be shielded in order to reduce glare and must be turned off by 11:00pm.


Public comment will be accepted at Wednesday’s planning commission meeting. Information on how to participate can be found here.

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