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Decision On Kamas Building Heights: A Few Feet Can Be Important

The Kamas City Planning Commission, meeting on Tuesday (September 7th), voted 4 to 1 against lowering a height limit, from 35 to 32 feet, for the city’s Mixed Use zone on Main Street.

The recommendation goes on to City Council. 

The planning commission’s decision came after business owners and developers opposed the change.   They said the current height is better for the Mixed Use zone, and the city’s goals of more available housing and a revived Main Street. 

Five speakers appearing before the Planning Commission and supported the 35-foot height, allowing for one ground floor of commercial and up to two stories of residential.

Pete Gillwald said the adoption of the Mixed Use zone two years ago was good news, allowing redevelopment on Main.     He said two projects have applied under the zone, and got support from the planning commissioners.     

“This particular body was—I’m not gonna say enthusiastic—but you were certainly embracing the concept of the mixed use, of 35 feet of height and the ability to get two levels of residential within that 35 feet.  Now I know you all made comments about, ‘We don’t want to be another Park City.’    But I don’t which part of Park City you don’t like.  So you’ll have to explain that one to me.  But again, both projects were looked on favorably.”

Jeff Camp, an owner along Main, noted he was the first person to apply for a project under Mixed Use and he received a Planning Commission approval.      

“Without having a second and third floor comprised of dwelling units, the project would not be financially viable.  In essence, the residential square footage needs to outnumber the commercial square footage in a building of this type to make it work.  However, I’m concerned that all the work that you guys did to create the Mixed Use zone is potentially in jeopardy if you now lower the maximum height on all the other property owners on Main Street.  Lowering the height only three feet creates a huge difference in the viability of providing necessary residential space.  For example, I wouldn’t be able to build my project if I were held to two stories, and I doubt any other owners up and down Main Street would either.  So I’m concerned that Main Street will continue to look, let’s call it tired, for years to come, even with mixed use in place, because the math doesn’t work with a lower height.”

Another speaker, Mark Newman, said that height comes with growth.

Planning Commissioners Leslie Staples and Tammy Georgi said it seems like trying to fit three levels into 32 feet would be ‘squishy’ as they put it.     They were joined by colleagues Larry Gines and Craig Hicken in voting against the zone change.

A dissenting vote came from Nathan Miles.    He said they need to ask themselves what they wanted with the current height on Main Street.      

“The issue was that, everything that we were seeing was flat-rop roofs, and the comments were made that that wasn’t the intent of raising the height limit.    The height limit was raised so that we could have a pitched-roof look across Main Street, still allow for the businesses on the bottom and residential on the top.  But with raising that, then that just put the creative juices of the developers to work and they decided they could get a third floor on there.   And so the question is, is that what we want?”

Kamas City Planning Commissioner Nathan Miles.

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.
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