Tech Center deal comes into focus as public opposition mounts
The public took center stage at the Summit County Council meeting Wednesday — though people weren’t invited to speak — as councilors heard the latest iteration of a development proposal that’s drawing increasing ire from the community.
About 40 people packed into the Richins Building Wednesday night, and more than 100 joined online, for a two-hour discussion about the proposed new neighborhood at Kimball Junction.
A lengthy round of applause and cheers broke out among the crowd after Councilor Roger Armstrong spoke against the project and the way it was being presented. That prompted Council Chair Glenn Wright to caution attendees.
“We will have order in this room, or we will ask people to be removed,” he said.
The center of the controversy is a proposal to build 1,100 homes at Kimball Junction, along with a hotel and other businesses. Opponents of the project cite traffic and congestion concerns, and say they do not see an upside to adding 3,000 residents to the area.
Proponents say the developer’s political clout and the additional revenue the project would create will spur the state to construct massively expensive fixes to Kimball Junction roads.
Public sentiment against the project has grown significantly in recent weeks, to the extent that county officials are scrambling to find a venue large enough for a public input session scheduled for Dec. 1. As of Thursday morning, no location had been decided.
In an informal straw poll at a County Council meeting earlier this year, four of the five councilors indicated support for the project’s framework. No official vote has been scheduled. Last year, the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission recommended against the project. Amid newfound and extensive negative public sentiment, it is unclear whether councilors still support the deal. An online petition has gathered nearly 3,500 signatures against it.
Project details have come into sharper focus in recent meetings. The newest proposal appears to be this: The developer would get to build 220 market-rate homes, a medical office building and another 75,000 square feet of office space in the project’s first phase. In exchange, the developer would help establish several financing mechanisms that would net both cash — some $14 million, in addition to other tax revenues — and a priority place on the Utah Department of Transportation’s project plan for fixes to S.R. 224.
One mechanism in particular, a Housing and Transit Reinvestment Zone, or HTRZ, would require UDOT to prioritize the Kimball Junction projects, according to County Manager Tom Fisher.
“An HTRZ or a CRC or a PID: All of those are mechanisms to grow large amounts of money to leverage with the state and the federal government to help fix transportation problems in Kimball Junction,” he said. “… How do we collectively guarantee that those mechanisms will be put in place if this development moves forward, and that’s where the phasing comes in.”
Fisher said the second phase of the project, including the balance of the market rate housing — more than 500 homes — along with 336 affordable housing units and the hotel, could not be built unless the financing mechanisms are put in place.
The deal remains a work in progress, and councilors said they expect to discuss it again before the public input session December 1.
Armstrong, the lone holdout in the initial straw poll, had some choice words for his fellow councilors, including Chair Wright, while he was discussing what he views as a flawed process. Drafts of the Development Agreement — a dense legal document of more than 100 pages — are only made available a day or two before meetings, he said.
“We’ve got to stop doing this,” Armstrong said. “You want to ram it through, Glenn, ram it through, but be honest about what we're doing. This is not the way to do it.”
Other councilors, including Doug Clyde, said they would be open to holding more input sessions to hear from the public.