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Candidates for open Summit County Council seat talk representation, development

Hanson and Cooke.jpg
Coalville City Planning Commissioner Tonja Blonquist Hanson and Snyderville Basin Planning Commissioner Thomas Cooke are seeking to replace Doug Clyde on the Summit County Council.

The Summit County Democratic Party will convene Saturday to pick between two candidates to fill the open seat on the county council.

Summit County Councilman Doug Clyde officially resigned from the county council at the beginning of the month, which triggered a process to fill his seat for the remaining two years of his term.

Because he is a Democrat, the Summit County Democratic Party determines his replacement. That gets decided through a vote of the party’s central committee, which includes over 100 delegates. There are two delegates for each precinct in the county.

On Saturday, the party is holding a meeting and will hear from Tonja Hanson and Thomas Cooke, who have both expressed interest in completing Clyde’s term.

Cooke lives in Silver Summit, and has been in Park City for over 30 years. He currently serves on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, and works for The Bicycle Collective, a Salt Lake City nonprofit, running operations and e-commerce. Additionally, he's a part-time Nordic coach at Park City Ski and Snowboard.

Hanson is a fifth-generation Summit County resident. She was born and raised in Coalville, but has also spent time living in Park City, Oakley, and Kamas. Her background is in marketing and hospitality, and she has experience working for Vail Resorts, POWDR Corp., and Talisker.

In addition to currently serving on the Coalville City Planning Commission, she is also the vice chair of the Summit County Open Space Advisory Committee.

Clyde is an Oakley resident, and with his departure, no one on the council lives on the county’s East side. Hanson said that was the top motivating factor for her to throw her hat in the ring.

“I think it’s imperative that we have fair representation of all citizens throughout the county," Hanson said. "And it’s not East vs. West, that’s not the deal at all. Because we’re all in this together, as a county.”

Cooke said he was sympathetic to that point, and advocated for creating precincts for the council in the future rather than them being entirely at large.

“We have a moment in time right now for the next two years where the Basin is bearing the brunt of the pressures of growth," Cooke said. "And I think right now is a really good time to have somebody who understands as best they can the code, the general plan, what we need to do to change it. Because that’s where a majority of the impacts are.”

Cooke referred to Dakota Pacific Real Estate, who is seeking to build over 700 housing units along with commercial space in the area of Kimball Junction by the Skullcandy building, as the elephant in the room.

He said he learned a lot from Dakota Pacific’s first application process, which was strongly opposed by residents, and ended up with the developer withdrawing its application for the time being.

“I think the most important thing is we have to reconnect our planning objectives with the goals of the community," Cooke said. "The council and planning staff and planning commission has to be able to have the trust with the community where we say, 'well if you want to solve x, y, z, then the best way to do it is a, b, c.' And that there’s some trust involved... I really do feel that we’ve lost that.”

Hanson said her planning experience has taught her that resident impact is a top priority.

She agreed that Kimball Junction has a big traffic problem, citing her years of experience commuting to Park City from the rural county.

She said building a mixed-use development elsewhere could potentially help, in order to divert those coming to the area for services like the grocery.

Both said there is a need for housing in the county, and Hanson said creating a regional housing authority could help. That would be an independent body solely focused on managing the housing crisis.

“That could really do a deep dive on this issue and maybe come up with some solutions that we’re not thinking about right now. The county council is really busy with so many things," Hanson said.

"And I really feel that they don’t have the time needed. So a housing authority or a citizens community group that could maybe spearhead that and bring solutions back to the county council that we could look at and possibly implement.”

Cooke also endorsed the housing authority idea. He pointed to Park City’s pilot lite deed restriction program, which compensates property owners for not renting homes on a short-term basis. He said he’d like to see the county try something similar.

In addition to suggesting things the county needs to work, the candidates pointed to recent county succeses.

Hanson mentioned the new High Valley Transit bus line to Wasatch County, which previously didn’t have any public transit.

Cooke said the overwhelming passage of the open space underscores how much residents throughout the county have in common with each other.

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.