Park City Council decries attacks against staff and planning commission as it reviews Deer Valley plans
At Tuesday’s joint meeting between the Park City Council and Planning Commission, it was decided that the council would step in and make a decision on part of the proposal to develop the Snow Park base area of Deer Valley before the planning commission reviews the entire proposal.
It was a situation described as “chicken or the egg” by city planning staff at Tuesday’s meeting between the Park City Council and Planning Commission.
The Deer Valley proposal to develop the Snow Park Base area includes altering part of Deer Valley Drive, eliminating the current loop around the parking lots and creating two turnarounds on Deer Valley Drive West and Deer Valley Drive East.
The planning commission is tasked with making a recommendation to the city council based on that concept. But legally, the changes to Deer Valley Drive can only be made by the city council.
The majority of Tuesday’s joint meeting was to determine which body should decide on the proposal first – the council or planning commission. After several hours of discussion, they decided together that the council would sign off on the traffic and circulation plan before the planning commission begins working on the rest of the project.
Councilor Jeremy Rubell summed up the council’s thoughts.
“When the question comes to council, I think the question has to be ‘are you okay vacating the road in consideration of this circulation plan?’ period," Rubell said. "Not a generic, high level ‘is it maybe a possibility?’ thing. I would be fully supportive of whatever you would call that to the process in the middle of the MPD consideration to pull that out early and ask council that question as soon as those options are decided upon by the applicant, frankly.”
Deer Valley’s proposal has faced significant pushback in recent weeks, largely focused around the plans for Deer Valley Drive. Councilors said they have received well over 100 emails on the topic and residents filled council chambers and more attended online to voice their frustrations Tuesday.
Adding to those frustrations was the fact city staff and Deer Valley’s parent company, Alterra Mountain Company, gave back-to-back presentations at the meeting and were seated next to each other in council chambers.
The presentations and optics led to some people implying or even outright accusing city staff during public comments of colluding with Alterra. A statement by local resident Larry Dickerson led to a tense exchange with Mayor Nann Worel.
“We already heard the staff is in bed with Alterra and I believe that–” Dickerson started.
“Excuse me, I’m going to interrupt you right there," said Worel. "That is an unfair implication … When we are in regular session, the applicant sits with the staff at the table to make their recommendations. The fact that they happen to be sitting next to each other in no way implies that the staff is bought and paid for or in bed with or whatever term you want to use for it, with the developer. That is absolutely not true.”
Commissioner John Kenworthy said he hears the public’s concerns about the project, but added that the development agreement makes some sort of development at Snow Park inevitable. That agreement with the city has been in place since 1977.
“We also need to understand the other side of the coin," he said. "The other side of the coin is there are approved entitlements on this property, and if anybody in this room doesn’t think that this is going to get built out, they don’t belong in this room. There is going to be a development on this property, okay? So let’s all weigh it, and let’s weigh the whole thing, and let’s weigh it right now through the planning commission’s next meeting.”
The planning commission indicated that it would hold one more work session on the Deer Valley Drive circulation plan next month before sending the issue to the council for approval.