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“Grey ribbon committee” to formulate housing needs for local senior community

Friday's senior housing community forum
Sean Higgins/KPCW
Friday's senior housing community forum

At a community forum Friday, the local senior community began to formulate a wishlist for potential future housing projects.

Although the ultimate fate of the Park City senior center on Woodside Avenue has gotten the lion’s share of attention in recent years, the issue of senior housing was the centerpiece of Friday’s forum.

Billed as a “listening session” by city staff and senior center board member Cheryl Soshnik, dozens of local seniors filled the Park City Library’s community room to provide feedback.

Many ideas were tossed around, but a few kept popping up. One in particular was to provide realistic options for people looking to move out of a larger house and still stay in the area.

Chris Roon said he relocated from the Bay Area 16 years ago to escape the city, but he now feels like there’s nowhere for he and his wife to go when they eventually downsize from their current home in Park Meadows.

“I want a place where I don’t have to leave all my friends," said Roon. "I’m 65, I just joined Medicare, lucky me. 10 years from now, I don’t want to try to maintain the home I have, but I don’t have a choice, and a lot of my neighbors in Park Meadows don’t have a choice. I want a place I can stay in the county, and I don’t have that option. It has to be single-level living, and I have to have access to transit.”  

Other ideas suggested were better integrating community areas into future housing projects, incorporating larger kitchens for visiting family or assisted living staff, and prioritizing access for long-time residents over more recent transplants.

A big question that was answered on Friday was whether or not to offer future senior housing units as rentals. By a show of hands, the room was overwhelmingly in favor of renting future units over buying them.

Pat Matheson is the Executive Director of the Mountainlands Community Housing Trust and said although concrete plans for a future project might be a ways away, the feedback received now is invaluable for when designs do get drawn up.

“I think that talking about community rooms, number of bedrooms, parking accessibility, it seems like you’re getting ahead of yourself in some degree, but you’re really not," he said. "When you express those needs and desires now, it starts to formulate what might be possible. I think the more things that come out, they’re sort of specific to use and size and things like that, really help everybody else to wrap their heads around what a project might look like.”

Ultimately, the seniors decided to take the feedback from Friday's session and form an action committee of themselves, elected officials, staff, and other members of the community to determine a clear path forward. Dubbed a “grey ribbon committee” by People’s Health Clinic Executive Director Beth Armstrong, the committee will work to zero in on things like size, location, and amenities for future housing projects geared towards the senior community.

Current city councilor and Mayor-Elect Nann Worel closed the forum by reflecting on her prior work on senior issues and pledging her support to the senior community and the future committee.

“I have been very frustrated over the years," Worel said. "I started my career here in Park City at the People’s Health Clinic and participated in some conversations, and that was probably 15 years ago, trying to get some traction for senior services. I’ve been very frustrated over the years that that has not happened. I am so encouraged today and I’m so excited today. I’ve taken some notes, I’ve listened intently to your comments, and I thank you all for being here, I thank you all for your interest. I will pledge to you my support for whatever efforts need to come next, and, Beth, I’d be honored to be a part of your committee.”

The city and the senior community are also poised to re-engage over the proposed housing project at the site of the current senior center, known as the Woodside Phase II project, once Worel takes office early next year. The project stalled earlier this year after the senior community voted to not leave the site, and the city council expressed a desire to integrate the senior center into future housing projects at a meeting last month.

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.