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Soils Site Public Hearing and Possible Housing Solutions Are On Park City Council’s Agenda This Week

KPCW Radio

This week’s Park City Council meeting is expected to be a lengthy one with a potential solution to the housing shortage on the agenda, and a public hearing on the proposed soil facility along SR 248. City officials said they anticipate significant community input.


Thursday’s city council meeting begins early, at 3:30 in the afternoon, with a study session on a possible deed-restriction program they say could help address Park City’s growing housing crisis.


The council will explore whether the city could pay homeowners a percentage of their property’s value as an incentive to require whoever is living there to be a full-time Park City resident through a deed restriction.


That’s in response to a boom in nightly rentals like those found on Airbnb and VRBO, which have greatly reduced the number of long-term rental options within city limits in recent years. Fewer housing options have forced many workers at local businesses to commute from out of town or find employment elsewhere.    


Deputy City Manager Sarah Pearce told KPCW similar projects have been implemented in comparable resort communities like Vail and Breckenridge in Colorado, to some success. She called the program another possible tool in the city’s toolbox for housing.


“I think we have to explore every tool,” Pearce said. “There’s not going to be one solution that fixes all of the housing issues in Park City, so every time there’s a new tool that’s available to us, we should explore it and this one seems like a good solution for certain segments of our housing market.”


Suggested areas in the city for this program include many condo and townhouse complexes.


Following that, the council will revisit the proposed soils management facility, known as the Gordo Project, along SR 248.


Soil that contains contaminants like lead and arsenic is found throughout much of Park City and is the byproduct of the city’s history as a mining town in the 19th and 20th centuries. The city wants to build a site to store soil excavated for city development projects in a manner they say is fiscally and environmentally responsible.


Mine tailings excavated in Park City are currently transported to a facility in the west desert of Tooele County. According to city estimates, a local facility could save over $17 million in transportation costs for the soil over the next 10 years.


The proposal has met stiff resistance from community members who have raised concerns about the risks of storing contaminated soil within city limits, as well as questions about the transparency of the process.


In response, the city began a 60-day outreach period with the public, which ended this week. A public hearing is scheduled to take place on the topic at 6pm.


Four courses of action for the council have been prepared by city staff: Abandoning the project entirely; moving forward with the project as it is currently proposed; a scaled-back version of the site; or continuing the public outreach and collecting additional soil data.


Jonathan Weidenhamer is the city’s Economic Development Manager and point-person for the soil project at city hall. He said staff is not recommending one course of action over another.      


“We haven’t brought a recommendation,” said Weidenhamer. “Really this is a step in the process and it gives council the ability to choose their path forward. Really, we needed to hear from the public, we wanted to allow the public a number of opportunities and ways to participate and give their input.”


He added given the sheer amount of interest in the project over the past several months, he believes a clear decision from the council is unlikely this week.


“I would be surprised if council chose an immediate path of action,” he said. “I believe, again, this is very much a step in the process, but this is a time to check in on the public input we’ve received and give council a chance to hear it.”


The city’s application for the soil facility is currently awaiting approval by the Utah Department of Environmental Quality. Although UDEQ staff have taken part in several of the city’s outreach efforts, the department has told KPCW they will not comment on the status of the application until a course of action is determined in Park City.


Participation details for Thursday’s meeting can be found here.

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.
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