Park City Councilors Say The Public Needs More Information About Arts and Culture District
The proposed arts and culture district in Park City has been a topic of discussion around town since the city first bought the five-acre parcel of land at the corner of Kearns Boulevard and Bonanza Drive in 2017. With a major public hearing on the project scheduled for the end of this month, several city councilors said this week that more transparency is needed on the project.
The Historic Park City Alliance business organization voted against recommending an expansion of the scope of the city’s Additional Resort Sales Tax in order to help pay for the project at this month’s board meeting.
Councilor Becca Gerber said at Thursday’s council meeting that the HPCA decision highlighted a glaring need for more communication from City Hall to the public about the project, especially how the proposal has changed since it was first unveiled in 2017.
“The one thing that almost every single board member said was that they didn’t feel like they had enough information,” Gerber said. “In addition, I feel that we are not doing a good job of making sure that we’re getting information out to the public about the arts and culture district. When we first came out with this opportunity, we did a really good job of taking it on a road show and making sure all of our partners had information and several years have gone by, some things have changed, some of the funding models have changed, and I do think that we are having these really intense discussions right now with council and the arts community has been really involved, but our community at large, I don’t think has been involved in these discussions over the past few months.”
In an email obtained by KPCW, fellow councilor Steve Joyce outlined his concerns with the project to the HPCA and added a warning that the city would be “essentially subsidising [the HPCA’s] competition.”
Initial plans for the district did include some retail space, but there have been conversations about potentially expanding it in order to offset some of the costs associated with the project. Additionally, an FAQ document on the project says it will not be a commercial district.
Joyce told KPCW the email was sent in his capacity as a council liaison to the HPCA and said its contents contained both facts about the project as well as his opinion on those facts.
“It’s been pretty clear that I actually believe that a hundred and something million dollars is just too much for us to be spending on the arts and culture district right now,” Joyce said. “I think the things we have to do to finance it go too far and I think there’s some issues that haven’t been resolved. I think there’s been a lot of good discussion over the, gosh, we’re up to three or four years now, but things have kind of gone quiet for a bit. There was a lot of discussion up front of what would it look like and where would it go and what types of things would be there. We’re really just now getting around to discussing how we pay for it. I guess that’s some combination of fact and my view of that fact.”
Councilor Nann Worel told KPCW the HPCA vote highlighted a need for more public information on the project.
“I think that, as Becca said, one of the things that it pointed out was the need for more information, the need for more community conversation around this,” said Worel. “I agree, I don’t think that people have all the facts, all the information that they need to make informed decisions.”
The city will be hosting both a roundtable event and public hearing on the arts and culture district later this month.
Joyce said despite his concerns, he’s still a strong supporter of the idea of the district and said if the city’s partners and the community get all the facts and are still behind the project, to go for it.
“If the community and the council and Sundance and Kimball and everything are all behind this and think it’s a great deal at $100 million and the financing is reasonable, then charge ahead,” said Joyce. “That’s why we have five city councilors; you’re allowed to have your own opinion, but it’s a popular vote. I just want to make sure that we’re very transparent about it and I don’t feel that we have been as transparent about the financing as we were about some of the other decisions about more of the design and things like that. I think it’s coming around, but I think we’ve got a ways to go yet.”
The arts and culture district roundtable is scheduled for March 29th and the public hearing will be on March 31st.