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Park City

City hall stands with staff in dispute over backyard sauna

Park City Hall winter
Leslie Thatcher

After a Park City resident’s complaint over the construction of an outdoor sauna was upheld by the city board of adjustment earlier this month, city hall is standing by its staff and the decision to grant the building permit.

Park Meadows resident Bob Theobald filed a complaint with the city’s building department last fall after a neighbor started building a backyard sauna.

Theobald argued that the sauna was being built outside of where it’s allowed to be based on the subdivision’s recorded plat and the homeowners’ association’s CC&Rs. He also argued the city misinterpreted the plat and made a mistake in granting the building permit.

The city’s staff argued that Theobald had missed the window to file the complaint and that the sauna had been approved and built properly under the city’s code. Theobald appealed that, and the Park City Board of Adjustment upheld his complaint on February 8th.

Deputy City Manager David Everitt said the process isn’t over yet.

“I think it’s fair to say that the city obviously does not agree with that direction that it seems that the board is going in and we’ll be looking to figure out ways to appeal that in some form or fashion,” he said.

Everitt added the city can’t get into too many details because the issue is still pending, but said the disagreement is based around how the city and Theobald view the city’s role in enforcing HOA CC&Rs.

The city will be submitting a findings of fact document to the board of adjustment and the property owner will also have an opportunity to appeal the decision as well.

City Manager Matt Dias said the city has nothing to hide and stands by its staff.

“I think we can agree to disagree and then let the process play out," said Dias. "That, for lack of a better term, may be how this is supposed to work and kind of government in action. We’re doing it openly. We’re doing it transparently, we’re not hiding that process and we’re ensuring that process is part of it. Tremendous amount of respect for Bob and we stand by our planners and their position.”

The city’s planning department has been under a microscope in recent months over everything from saunas, the proposal to develop the base of Park City Mountain Resort, to the construction of backyard pickleball courts.

Theobald told KPCW last week that, to him, it looks like the city is favoring “expediency over diligence” and accused staff of misinterpreting its code. Everitt hit back on those accusations.

“Those kinds of phrases are really irresponsible, to say the least, and really offensive, actually," Everitt said. "I want to just be clear that that is not what planning staff do, they follow the code as it’s written and will continue to do so in a professional manner.” 

Everitt said he hopes to see the sauna issue resolved as soon as possible.