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State of Park City Highlights ‘Generational’ Issues the Community Faces in 2021

Park City Municipal Corporation

Tuesday night’s virtual State of Park City address by Mayor Andy Beerman offered a “journey through time,” connecting the city’s modern problems like traffic and housing affordability with lessons learned -- or not learned -- in the past.


Park City Mayor Andy Beerman characterized 2020 as a year of ‘big little things’ on Tuesday night, where although many of the city’s larger goals for the year were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, small incremental progress on a number of key city priorities were made.


Instead of breaking ground on new construction projects, a new housing resolution was passed last fall. Beerman also said smaller things like starting a Spanish-language Facebook page for city government actually made a big difference in engaging Park City’s Spanish-speaking community.


Throughout Tuesday evening’s presentation, Beerman also posed a few questions directly to the virtual audience.


When did traffic get so bad? And what year did housing become unaffordable? Were both asked. 


For many of today’s Parkites, these issues have only manifested themselves in recent years, but the mayor used newspaper headlines from as far back as the 1960s to illustrate that, in fact, the city has been grappling with many of the same questions for decades.


Beerman spoke with KPCW on Wednesday morning and said what sets today apart from years past is just how tangled and costly these problems have gotten to solve. He added just because the problems are not new, the community should not hesitate to work towards solving them.   


“Where we’re faced today, I think the challenges of traffic and housing are more complex than they ever were, they’re more expensive, but that doesn’t mean we should back down and in fact I think the idea of being bold is important because you look at traffic, we can add all the busses we want, we can try to squeeze out efficiencies, but the reality is that as long as we’re a car-centric town that’s located in a narrow valley with no parking and only two roads in, we’re gonna have traffic to some degree,” said Beerman. “We need to start to reconsider how our town functions and see if we can come up with a new vision where we are a car-optional town and we have better ways to move people around if we truly want to eradicate traffic.”


Becoming a car-optional town by 2030 is a lofty goal, but Beerman pointed to the possibility of large satellite parking lots and more dedicated bus lanes in and out of the city as ways to eventually get there.


How to effectively balance Park City’s growth with maintaining the mountain-town feel it’s so famous for is another issue that is not new, but will be a central topic for Beerman and his colleagues at city hall going forward.


At a Q&A session with city councilors after the presentation, Councilmember Max Doilney said there are no easy answers, but added that closing the door to all growth is not the answer either.  


It’s a perpetual battle for unique places like Park City, I think,” said Doilney.” If somebody has a  silver-bullet solution, we’re wide open, but I think that coming up with the critical priorities that we have, coming up with a firm identity for who we are and who we want to be, and trying to elect people who have Park City’s interests in mind … but also not forget that we’re not just trying to shut the gate, you know? We need to change with the times and we need to be willing to grow into the future.”


Fellow Councilmember Tim Henney added that Park City’s community is the reason why the city has been so successful and why so many people and businesses want to call it home.


“I think it’s, in part, calling out what we already know and recognizing the reality of what is, which is everything is built on the authentic nature of our community,” said Henney. “That’s the local culture of our community, the relationships, the neighborhoods that keep our fabric of our community robust and strong. Everything is built upon that.”


The first major tests for city hall in tackling these key community priorities in 2021 will be the ongoing discussions around the proposed arts and culture district at the corner of Bonanza Drive and Kearns Boulevard, as well as an extensive proposal to develop the base area of Park City Mountain Resort.


Ballooning construction costs and community concerns about the effects of both projects on traffic and quality of life in Park City have given local officials pause.


Discussions at the Park City Planning Commission and City Council on these topics are expected to stretch well into the spring.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.