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Park City plans to gather public input on arts and culture district - again

The current site in Bonanza Park where the arts and culture district could potentially be built.
Parker Malatesta
The site in Bonanza Park where the arts and culture district would be located is currently empty but colorful.

Park City is launching a new study for the proposed arts and culture district, and the city council said Thursday it wants to ask residents a basic question - do you still want it?

Park City locals have gone through years of debate and drama related to a section of the Bonanza Park neighborhood that city officials worked to turn into an arts and culture district at Kearns Blvd. and Bonanza Dr.

The topic came up again during the Park City Council’s retreat Wednesday. Some time has passed since the project was put on hold, and the city said it’s time to check in with the public again.

A previous study on the district was done in 2017, but plans were eventually scrapped amid community concerns with the price tag, which ballooned by 30% to over $100 million.

But the space is still vacant and its central location offers possibilities, so the city is going back to the drawing board, conducting a new study to gauge public interest and explore what an arts district could look like and cost. Simultaneously, the city will start work on an area plan for the Bonanza Park and Snow Creek neighborhoods.

Councilmember Max Doilney said the city and the world have changed a lot since the last study. He said what’s important is that there’s a long-term plan to carry the project into the future.

“How do we keep such a massive mission on the track moving forward with the changing dynamics of those of us who will be sitting here over the next couple of years? Because I think that’s part of the frustration in the community is having to sort of reevaluate the same area over and over and come to a new conclusion each time," Doilney said.

"Sort of seems like a path to nowhere.”

The Sundance Institute and the Kimball Arts Center would both be key partners in the project. Park City Mayor Nann Worel said both support conducting the study.

There are currently two large development applications in the same neighborhood: the city’s Homestake affordable housing project and the redevelopment of the Doubletree hotel, commonly known as the Yarrow. Between those two, Park City could see the addition of nearly 400 housing units.

At the retreat Wednesday, councilmember Ryan Dickey said those pending applications point to possibly needing a building moratorium, which has been discussed in the past but never used.

“Before those applications come in, we have to have a clear vision about what we’re doing," Dickey said.

"And I want to go back to our development moratorium conversation at some point, because I think it relates to that. We need to be able - I think we actually have to hit a pause button so that we aren’t dealing with development applications as we do this plan.”

State property rights laws make enacting a moratorium a challenge. The city would have to show a “compelling and countervailing public interest” to put one in place, and it would only last a maximum of six months before needing to be renewed.

In March, Park City Planning Director Gretchen Milliken told the council that the department considered requesting a moratorium in 2021, but planning staff eventually got through its backlog of applications.

At the separate Park City Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, commissioner John Kenworthy also broached the topic of a building moratorium, but it wasn’t discussed at length.

After crafting a Bonanza Park/Snow Creek neighborhood plan, the city will begin updating its general plan in 2023. The general plan is a guidebook for land use decisions, and hasn’t been updated since 2014.