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Park City Planning Commission delays Homestake project over power station questions

A rendering of the Homestake housing project, which will include 99 affordable housing units.
J Fisher Companies
A rendering of the Homestake housing project, which will include 99 affordable housing units.

The Park City Planning Commission wants to learn more about a Rocky Mountain Power substation amid concerns about its proximity to an affordable housing project.

The planning commission already approved the Homestake development, which will create over 120 housing units in what ‘s now a parking lot behind the Kimball Arts Center and Boneyard Saloon. Homestake is a public-private partnership under which the developer is building on city land.

The commission was tasked last week with approving the development agreement so the project can proceed. But, several commissioners hesitated after getting new information about the Rocky Mountain Power substation next to the property.

The substation has come up in conversation throughout the project’s vetting by the city, particularly looking at electric and magnetic fields, or EMFs, that future residents could be exposed to.

A professional review of EMFs at the site found the readings to be “far below what is widely considered as harmful levels.”

However, a potential future voltage increase there has raised fresh concerns. Dave Gustafson, a project manager with the city’s engineering department, told the city council in February that the number of volts put through Rocky Mountain Power’s site could triple in the future.

“The approval was prior to that information," commissioner John Frontero said at last week's meeting. "When that information was made available to me, I had some concerns.”

Commissioner Bill Johnson commended the developer, J. Fisher Companies, for researching the topic, but added that he was still uncomfortable.

“So while I don’t love it, they did a great job putting together a backup documentation that covers us somewhat," Johnson said. "I don’t like it, I don’t think it’s safe.”

Commissioner John Kenworthy said that in December, chair Laura Suesser refused to sign the final action letter on the project. That’s unusual; chairs sign such letters as a matter of procedure.

This week, Suesser recused herself from Wednesday’s discussion, and did not respond to requests for comment.

The final action letter included in the development agreement is signed by chair pro tem Sarah Hall, who is second in command.

Hall didn’t express concerns about increased voltage when Kenworthy asked her about it at the most recent meeting.

“You don’t find any issue with the fact that we weren’t presented the increase in the voltage?” Kenworthy asked. 

“Correct,” Hall replied.

Park City Municipal directed questions about the substation to Rocky Mountain Power. A spokesman for Rocky Mountain Power could not confirm that any voltage increase was going to happen at the Park City grid. Park City Manager Matt Dias said Monday he isn't aware of any increase.

Commissioners said increased voltage could prompt more mitigation efforts by the developer, which could look like increased setbacks or infrastructure to serve as a buffer.

A majority of planning commissioners voted to delay a decision on the development until April, in order to do more research on EMFs. Hall and commissioner Christine Van Dine voted against the delay.