Stormy Reception For Highland Flats

Feb 24, 2021

The Snyderville Planning Commission Tuesday night hosted a lengthy public hearing on the proposed Highland Flats residential development.    The overwhelming majority of the speakers opposed the project.

After the public comment, the Planning Commissioners did not come to a vote on the proposal.

Snyderville Planning Chairman Ryan Dickey noted that over 200 people were attending the meeting via Zoom.   

Some 55 people spoke about Highland Flats, a proposal to place 410 rental units on a location of over 41 acres.   The expanse of property is bounded by Highland Drive, to the south and west; and on the other side by the junction of Interstate 80 and U.S. 40

The developers say the plan would include 144 units planned as affordable housing; and 180 as moderate or attainable housing.    The project would not accommodate nightly rentals.

But the critics said that the large amount of density violates the Snyderville General Plan and isn’t compatible with the more rural character of Highland Estates.    It was called “a square peg in a round hole.”

Maybe the major complaint is that Highland Flats will increase traffic and exacerbate problems already existing on Highland Drive and nearby roads.    Opponents said Highland Drive is due to receive more cars from projects under construction, like Lincoln Station and Silver Creek Village.    They said the road is shared by speeders, cyclists and homeowners at risk who back out from their driveways right onto Highland.    They also said it will funnel more traffic down Snowview Drive toward Trailside Elementary, where kids walk to school without sidewalks.

Among the comments, Kathy Apostalakos said the density in the project will exceed the current population of Highland Estates.

“So what are they whispering in your ear?  They are whispering affordable housing.   And yes, I know we need it.  It does not fit here.  It’s not 40 units.   It’s 410 units, hooked to a housing development with 264 units.   Why are we even talking about this?  Why are we using your time when you have better things to do, about talking about something that in no way fits here, except a money-grubbing developer wants to do this.”

Louis Tessler said residents are being asked to help out the ski resorts.        

“Basically, it seems that we, as residents, have been put on the backburner.   And everything that happens for the benefit of these large ski resorts, it does nothing for us.   They’re taking away our parking, they’re taking away all our facilities that’s all meant for the tourists coming in.  But we’re asked to subsidize their workforce, cause a lot of the temporary and the low-income housing comes in the wintertime.  And we’re being asked in large part to subsidize, by allowing 400-unit development coming in our neighborhood, that can’t handle it.”

Residents, like Michael Bednar, also said the project site is a popular spot for elk, even if the state Division of Wildlife Resources says it’s not safe for the animals.  

“They like to bed down in that corner, they like to hang out there.  And I know the DWR says it’s not a great place for them.  But when they migrate and then they’re met with buildings, where are they gonna go.  Are they gonna end up in the middle of I-80?   It doesn’t seem sustainable.  It seems negative for the community we’re talking about.  I understand there is a need for the low-income housing.  I understand that’s very important.   But this to me seems a bad roundabout way to go for it.”

But a handful of speakers supported the project, including a construction worker and a schoolteacher who said there’s a critical need for affordable housing in the area.

The construction worker, Matt Sneyd, told the critics that elk used to roam where their houses are.

“It’s a little unfair to shut out everybody once you’ve got your spot, because it doesn’t give anybody else the opportunity to have the awesome place to live like you do.  I commute up there.   I’d prefer to live up there.  But all of these issues were issues before that can be changed and altered with growth where we need to meet in the middle.  We can’t just side on one side and say, “There’s no way, it needs to be somewhere else.”  Cause that’s what every single community says in every one of these meetings.  And it’s like, if we can’t say that there’s gonna be a middle ground or someplace to put it, or a decent place to put it, then we’ll be in the same spot that Park City’s been for the last 10 years, which is that almost no affordable housing has been built because nobody wants it next to them.”

The public comments continued past 10 p.m.    The Snyderville Commission voted to continue the item to their next meeting on March 9th, with a dissenting vote from Chris Conabee.