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PCSD cites differing legal views as stop work order halts construction at JRES

Equipment and a contractor's trailer sit idle at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School
Equipment and a contractor's trailer sit idle at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School

Construction is mostly stopped at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School as the Park City School District and Summit County work to bring the project into compliance.

There was construction work happening at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School this week, but it was only finishing work on an open sewer line for safety purposes. The campus expansion is still on hold after Summit County issued a stop work order last week.

That order came with a notice of violation that the school district had not obtained permits for its project as required by county and state code.

In response to KPCW’s report about the stop work order, Park City Schools Superintendent Jill Gildea responded Monday, saying there are differing legal views among the district, the county, and project contractor Hughes Construction regarding the county’s authority to regulate building projects in unincorporated areas.

In an email to KPCW, Gildea wrote, “the legal issue centers on the question of how much authority the County has over an addition to an existing public school and whether the statute that carves out school districts from most county land use ordinances and building codes in favor of state oversight means that PCSD can proceed.” The issue, she added is further complicated by zoning changes in Summit County that occurred after these schools were originally built. Previous school construction projects both in Summit County and in other counties, she said managed by the same design-build teams being used by PCSD, have not been subject to similar county-imposed mandates.

According to Summit County Community Development Director Pat Putt, teams from the district and county will meet on site at Jeremy Ranch Thursday to discuss the plan in place for the project and the county requirements for moving it forward.

Gildea said she hoped that previously planned work on the site will be allowed to proceed while the county’s concerns are addressed.

Putt also said the county’s goal is a speedy remedy to the problem and compliance with code. The stop work order he added could possibly be revised further to establish a temporary bus drop off area in order to be ready for school opening.

State land use code requires that building projects conform to county ordinances. School districts have some exceptions to that involving landscaping and building aesthetics, but county officials say a project being built 100-feet from East Canyon Creek requires stormwater and construction mitigation plans.

On Tuesday, Summit County manager Tom Fisher said rules, regulations and permits are in place to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and public waterways.

“It's our responsibility to make sure that those go on and we would treat any level of development similar to what's happening here,” Fisher said. “School districts in Utah are exempt from certain things. But we're very clear, through working with our attorney's office, what they're exempt from and what they're not. And we believe that we're upholding rules that need to be upheld, as we would with any other development.”

The district confirmed that Jeremy Ranch will open for the coming school year on schedule August 17, and current conditions such as construction fencing blocking fire hydrants and emergency exits would be resolved before then.