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Summit County Council approves plan that could lead to Kimball Junction development

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Summit County
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The plan potentially paves the way for high density development in Kimball Junction.

The housing plan requires the county to report to the state how it will create affordable housing. In exchange, Summit County will receive millions in state funding for a variety of projects, including transportation.

As required by state lawmakers, the Summit County Council approved affordable housing plans for the Snyderville Basin and East Side on Monday. It could force Kimball Junction to allow high density development.

The housing plan is a new requirement for counties that came out of the massive House Bill 462, which Gov. Spencer Cox earlier this year.

The goal of the bill is to push local governments to help combat the state’s housing shortage amid population growth.

The housing plan requires the county to report to the state how it will create affordable housing. In exchange, Summit County will receive millions in state funding for a variety of projects, including transportation.

Most notably, it requires Summit County to include a housing and transit reinvestment zone, or HTRZ, in its plan. That’s because it has a transit hub serving four routes — the Kimball Junction Transit Center.

An HTRZ requires high density — at least 39 homes per acre — in buildable areas around transit hubs like at Kimball Junction.

Last year Dakota Pacific Real Estate proposed such a project. The developer wanted to build over 1,000 housing units, a hotel, and office space on roughly 58 acres near the Skullcandy building in Kimball Junction. The developer eventually asked the county to pause its plans after nearly 1,000 residents attended a public hearing in person and online to oppose the project.

The law passed months after the project stalled.

At the Summit County Council meeting on Monday, councilmember Roger Armstrong said the law singled out the county with the HTRZ provision.

“One of the funniest things in the legislation - they didn’t just make it really precise," Armstrong said. "They designed it so it wouldn’t affect any other county later by saying you have to have created your small transit district on or before Jan. 1, 2022. So anybody who created a small transit district Jan. 2, 2022 doesn’t have the same burden.”

Bonnie Park is a founder of Friends for Responsible Development for Greater Park City. The group previously organized against the Dakota Pacific application and has taken donations. She suggested the county send the plan over by its Oct. 1 deadline without the HTRZ.

“We have 90 days to remedy that which takes us to the end of the year and the new legislative session,” Park said.

She hoped that by biding time, the law’s HTRZ requirement could be changed by state lawmakers.

Summit County Chief Civil Attorney Dave Thomas didn’t agree with that idea.

“The problem with playing games with the Legislature, is you generally get burned,” Thomas said.

He said the county could lose out on millions in transportation funding within the 90 day review period. Thomas said for now, the county just has to include the HTRZ in their plan, but how it will play out in the future is up in the air.

“Even if you don’t do the HTRZ, as long as that remains a strategy in your general plan, technically you will have complied with the statute,” Thomas said.

The county must now hold public hearings within a year to get feedback on where exactly the HTRZ should go. The zone has to be established within one year after the hearings are finished

The Summit County Planning Department is currently analyzing a traffic study submitted by Dakota Pacific as the firm prepares to submit a new development application.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.