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In split vote, Park City Planning Commission recommends accessory dwelling apartment changes

Accessory dwelling apartments are units located outside a home.
Accessory dwelling apartments are units located outside a home.

On Wednesday, the Park City Planning Commission recommended the city council pass code changes that could encourage more long-term rentals, but the vote was not unanimous.

In a 4-3 vote, with commission chair John Phillips providing the tiebreaker, the Park City Planning Commission signed off on several changes to the city’s land management code Wednesday night.

The changes are targeted at encouraging more long-term rentals in the city, and pertain to accessory dwelling apartments that are attached to a home or garage.

Commissioners agreed on almost all of the proposed changes, which include increasing the number of accessory apartments allowed inside a 300-foot radius, requiring leases be at least 90 days, and reducing the minimum square footage allowed from 400 to 280.

The split was related to how much review the commission should have over requests to build apartment units in the city’s historic zoning districts in Old Town. Commissioners Laura Seusser, Bill Johnson, and John Kenworthy argued the commission should have more oversight, while Sarah Hall, Doug Thimm, Christin Van Dine, and Phillips said approval in the historic districts should be left to the city planning department. There are already strict building requirements in place for those areas, and the majority argued that more approvals would discourage property owners from even applying for construction.

Thimm said even though there are disagreements, a vote was warranted because the commission was unified on the rest of the proposals.

“Actually, I think the commission is in consensus on most of the points of this," said Thimm. "There are some notable exceptions, one or two notable exceptions to that, but just based upon the conversation, I don’t know that any one of the members of the commission are going to be changing their thought, even if we were to continue this and have another discussion at a later meeting.” 

Suesser, Johnson, and Kenworthy all supported the rest of the changes.

One distinction in these changes is the difference between accessory apartments and accessory units. Accessory units are contained within a home’s existing footprint, like a basement apartment, while an accessory apartment is an add-on outside a home.

The state legislature passed a law earlier this year that severely limits local governments’ ability to control the use of accessory units, while accessory apartments are not included.

City Attorney Mark Harrington told the commission that although the legislature may cover accessory apartments in the future, it should not influence its decision now.

“[The legislature is] not happy with that," he said. "That’s been one of the things that has been expressed in the interim sessions, so they may remove that deed restriction requirement. For right now, I think you need to plan without that threat dictating the outcomes you want, and I think that’s the way we’ve approached it.”

With the planning commission’s recommendation, the code changes will head to the city council for final approval. The council is expected to consider the issue on December 9th.

Editor's note: A sentence was removed to provide clarity on city regulations of accessory dwelling units.

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.