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Update on Our Local Real Estate Market

I love when when KPCW’s Leslie Thatcher interviews Nancy Tallman, President of Park City Board of Realtors and Carol Agle, Chairperson of board’s statistic group. Last Friday’s interview didn’t disappoint. Here are some of the highlights provided by Ms Tallman and Ms Agle about the local real-estate market:

  • Prices as a whole are stable. They said that they couldn’t remember a time when they took the sales added up for all homes in the Park City city limits and the average price went up $0.
  • The average price in Park Meadows, which is the “bellwether” market in Park City, and the average price in Jeremy Ranch did not go up, either.
  • When looking at the median price it went up because “everyone is buying from the lower end of the market.”
  • Leslie Thatcher, given the fact that average prices did not go up, asked about the bright spots. The response from Ms Tallman and Ms Agle was that stability is actually a good thing.
  • As being in town becomes more pricey, people are willing to live farther out and get houses with lower prices.
  • They say that we’ve run up against the limits of what a primary home buyer can pay. Home buyers may have got a few raises recently but that their expenses have gone up too. So, there is a ceiling to what they can borrow.
  • The median price in Old Town is $415,000. Median price means 50% of all sales happen below $415,000. They would like to know why some of this property can’t be used for affordable housing requirements instead of building on new land. Many of these are 2-4 bedroom condos.
  • They said inventory was at historic lows. They then discussed why prices aren’t up, given typical supply versus demand principles. The response was that people are tapped out and that they may be looking at newer, more exciting areas.
  • Inventory started declining in 2013 and hasn’t really recovered.
  • Short sales and foreclosures are way down here and across the country.
  • Now people are staying in homes 10 years, versus before the economic downturn where they were staying in a home 6 years.
  • Ms Thatcher asked what properties are doing well and selling fast. The response was some homes around a million dollars in Prospector, Ranch place, and Silver Springs were often going fast.
  • The median price of homes sold in the Park City city limits (basically to the white barn) was $1.3 million, which is the same as a few months ago. They are seeing a mental block with buyers going higher than $1.3.
  • The median price of homes sold in the entire Snyderville Basin was $800,000.
  • The number of sales is down 29%. They said this fits into the lack of inventory issue.
  • They are seeing some people in Park Meadows who have “tear down houses” but then fix them up to try and sell them. They are not spending money wisely. They gave an example of 2 houses on American Settler that both sold for $1.5 million that will be torn down. Therefore, they recommend talking to a real-estate professional to make sure that buyer’s views of their property really reflect reality.

Note the full interview can be heard on KPCW’s website, where they post most Local News Hour Programs.

New Voice at the Park Rag

I wanted to introduce you to Julia, the newest contributor to the Park Rag. Julia is a student at Park City High School and has written her first article on the renovations to the Park City High School Library for PCCAPS. The Park Rag has had various contributors over the past few years, but Julia is the first student to write with us.

I look forward to her unique perspective as we all work to make Park City a better place.

Welcome Julia.

School Board Should Have Involved Students in PC CAPS Library Renovation Decision

On Tuesday, a small group of Park City High School faculty and students, myself included, attended a casual presentation hosted by Park City High School Principal Bob O’Connor about the impending renovations to our school’s library, which will result in a shared space with the PCCAPS program. The intent of the presentation was to clarify the plans for the library amidst the rumors flying around the school and community. More excitingly, the floor plans for the space were revealed.

To kick things off, the group created a list of student and faculty concerns that needed to be addressed. Amongst the most prominent were the use of e-books, having a sanctuary for students, and what exactly will happen to the books.

According to information provided at the meeting, the school is narrowing down their supply of physical books to those that are still relevant for students. Two or three years ago, twice as many books were being checked out than they are today at Park City High School. Those books that haven’t been checked out for over eight years were available for students to “adopt” today, sitting in portable shelves in front of the library. The majority of the books that haven’t been used in three years or more will be put into storage. The reason provided was that use of physical books has decreased. A corresponding increase in e-book use by Park City High School students, however, has yet to be statistically proven. This makes me wonder: will students move from reading physical books to reading e-books, or will they just read less altogether?

The presentation hurried to make one thing clear: the library will be open to all students, all the time. This includes the time that PCCAPS is in the space. The PCCAPS students will be centered in conference rooms and a closed-off robotics area, while the rest of the library will be open to everyone else. So, at least a portion of the library will always be open, while some areas such as the conference rooms will be in use during parts of the day but available to all students during others.

My attention was piqued when the floor plan for the new area was revealed. The design has numerous conference rooms along the perimeter of the room, which will be used mostly for PCCAPS but is available to all students and clubs when not in use otherwise. These conference rooms will be separated by the library space in the center of the room by 10 feet high glass walls. These walls will be soundproofed, while the conference rooms will remain open-ceilinged. All remaining books will be kept in shelves lining the divider walls. A few small projection screens will be on the walls, and a larger one can be pulled down from the ceiling.

This new space is being described as an “internet cafe.” The library will have more comfortable seating, airport tables, and the aforementioned screens. (None of us students actually know what airport tables are; we’re thinking potentially tables with USB ports.) Mr. O’Connor mentioned a possible espresso bar, located either in the library or nearby cafeteria. The espresso bar sounds really cool to me. Who doesn’t like the idea of hanging out on a couch, sipping on coffee, and surfing the internet? I do wish, however, that these ideas were made public earlier and presented as a legitimate idea rather than what seems like an attempt to appease angry students.

Here’s my problem with the plans. Of the current 8,000 square feet of space, only 4,000 will be designated library – or “internet cafe” – space. According to information given at the meeting, approximately 130 spots are filled for the PCCAPS program next year, over two semesters. This is a distinct minority of the school’s population. However, we need to recognize that PCCAPS has nowhere else to go at this time. The lease in the old building is up, and the library is the next best location for the program. It’s just rather unfortunate that the move will severely decrease floor space for the library area itself.

The change in the library’s size and identity do affect me, and many other students, in another way: study hall. Currently, study hall is held in the library, but according to Mr. O’Connor, that will no longer be an option next year. I am taking study hall next year, and the idea of working in the comfortable seating and natural lighting of the library really appealed to me. Next year, study hall will either be held in an unused lab or a classroom that is not being used for the period. It’s disappointing that the library will be changed to the point that study hall is no longer possible there.

It’s noteworthy to add that, in my opinion, Ms. Anita Booher, our school’s librarian, seemed upset about the changes presented during the meeting. Perhaps she wasn’t as involved in the decision-making process as the school board had led us to believe. At one point, when Mr. O’Connor used “we” while explaining the decisions, she spoke up to clarify that she had not been a part of it. Towards the end of the presentation, she stood up and promised that she would do her absolute best to work with what she had going forward to preserve the integrity of the library.

This exclusion can also be applied to the student body and general public. Rumors have been flying, and everyone has seemed to have a different idea of what the plan for the library was. I am disappointed that the board didn’t come forward earlier to offer information and ask for input. Had they done this, the misinformed uproar wouldn’t have happened, and there would be many more happy students. I believe we deserve to have been involved since the beginning. To further my point, today’s meeting was attended by approximately ten students. Why? Only a select few students, such as the Breakfast Club and others who have spoken up, were invited to the presentation. No public announcement was made to the student body at any point. This really rubs me the wrong way. Isn’t now the time to get students involved, to make up for past mistakes in the planning process? I thought this meeting would be used to involve the students in the process that they were excluded from before. In that regard, the meeting was a missed opportunity.


Are Our Schools Broken For Some Students?

We received a comment from a citizen about PC CAPS. She said, “My son is a ‘square peg in a round hole’ when it comes to school. All of his teachers lament how incredibly bright he is, yet the standard classes with busy work bore him senseless and he struggles with grades. PC CAPS doesn’t have a GPA requirement, so it is open to ALL students, which is great for those who are struggling and might want to explore the professional world to see if somewhere that they could flourish…I think we need more programs like CAPS for students who don’t learn by sitting in a classroom.”

I have heard similar comments from many parents about their kids in Park City. What I think this commenter is saying is that school is broken for her child. This somewhat ties into what another citizen said when she recommended watching Sir Ken Robinson’s video on why our entire educational system is broken. Our commenter seems to be looking at PC CAPS as THE alternative, because it is one of the only alternatives to traditional school in our school system.

What I have wondered for a while, though, is whether our schools our taking the wrong approach when looking at standardized tests and that focus impacts the very students they are trying to help. For instance, the SAGE standardized test results came out and Park City’s results were bad (as were most schools). Our High School math results hovered at somewhere between abysmal (39% proficient in secondary math II) to failing (50% proficient in Secondary Math III). Out of this came a decision by our school system to double down, and come hell or high water, improve the scores. I get it. When you want to not only be the best school district in the state, but the best school district in the country you want metrics to prove it. Yet that strategy seems to be failing a number of kids.

We already know that we have one of the better school districts in the state. Our teachers (on average) are the highest paid in the state. It stands to reason that we therefore get the best and brightest educators available. Do I, as a parent, want them to teach to some standardized test? No, I want teachers to use their creativity to engage students. When I took calculus I learned to calculate the area underneath a curve. When I complained, “when will I ever use this?” the answer was always, “probably never” but it will teach you to think. And it did teach me to think — and no I haven’t used it.

In the case of Park City schools, instead of trying to get our standardized test scores up, should we say “who cares”? Should we focus on creatively educating our students? Should we not depend on an hour of PC CAPS twice a week for the last few years of school as the alternative for kids who need a different experience?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a PHD in education. I don’t teach in schools and am not an educator. So, am I even qualified to ask these questions? I’m sure some many would say no.

However, I am the guy who wants to hire your kid as a software engineer when they graduate, or get their GRE, or they decide to be the next Sean Parker when they are 16. So, I have a huge vested interest in your kid’s outcome but perhaps a less vested interest in how they get there. What I hate to see is wasted talent or worse yet talent that has been squelched. It sounds like, in some cases, the latter is happening.

Would a start be offering a different kind of Dual Immersion? Today’s Dual Immersion is based around becoming fluent in a foreign language during your child’s formative years. I think I heard that at the end of the dual immersion program at Park City schools, kids would only be 30 hours away from a college minor in their language. Uhhh…really is that a benefit? Again, I think the point of the program is likely to make our kids think and expand their brains. If that’s the case, why not offer a different type of dual immersion? One that’s focused on learning and creativity. One that provides the experience necessary to succeed in the real world and not just compete on Jeopardy.

Park City has always been known as a leader in education in Utah. Perhaps it should use a little of that influence to provide alternatives to some of our brightest, but most bored, students.


Salt Lake Is the 12th Fastest Growing City in America (Down from 5th)

Each year Forbes ranks the top growing cities in the country. This year Salt Lake is the 12th fastest growing city.

Forbes’ rankings are based on six metrics including estimated population growth , year-over-year job growth, economic growth rate, unemployment data, and median annual pay for college-educated workers in each area. Salt Lake’s stats include:

2015 (Projected) pop. growth rate: 1.24%

Job growth rate: 2.74%

Unemployment: 3.38%

2014 Gross Metro Product Growth: 1.44%

Median pay: $61,800

Why this matters is that so many decisions in Park City and Summit County are made because “growth is coming.” Throughout the early 2000s, this growth was obvious and documented by statistics. During the economic downturn of the 2008-2010, growth was not so obvious. As we enter the second half of the decade knowing where we stand is important for two reasons. First, it helps us plan in case growth continues. Second, in case growth stalls, it helps us ensure that our local government is both spending money and planning wisely.

Salt Lake was ranked the 5th fastest growing city in America 2012, 2013 and 2014. Here is Forbes’ ranking for 2015:

  1. Houston
  2. Austin
  3. Dallas
  4. Raleigh
  5. Seattle
  6. Denver
  7. San Francisco
  8. Fort Worth
  9. Charlotte
  10. San Antonio
  11. Phoenix
  12. Salt Lake
  13. Orlando
  14. Cambridge (MA)
  15. Oklahoma City
  16. San Diego
  17. San Jose
  18. Las Vegas
  19. West Palm Beach
  20. Nashville

Summit County Council… How Many Times Must Citizens Speak?

I was speaking with a friend this week from Jeremy Ranch about development around Park City. She said, “yeah there is a lot of development but at least our hill is safe.” She is referring to a hill across from the Jeremy Store where the owner of the land asked for increased development rights to build a hotel, grocery, retail, condos, etc. When the topic was brought up before the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, approximately 175 Jeremy Ranch residents showed up at meeting at Ecker Hill Middle School to protest expansion of development rights.

Out of that meeting, and because of the response, the Summit County Community Development Department and the planning commission decided to table the concept of “receiving areas” which could have been the tool to allow the developer to switch from 66,000 sq feet of office space on that hill to 250,000 sq feet of Sandy in the Mountains. One of the ways they seemed to accomplish that was to put a section in the General Plan saying that no new entitlements will be allowed until existing entitlements are used up. Effectively I believe the Planning Commission and Community Development Department heard the cries of Jeremy Ranch residents and said something like, “you know, there is so much development already approved around Summit County, and these residents obviously don’t want development on top of what has already been approved, so let’s state in our general plan that we don’t want excess development until the existing rights are used up.” This is formally known as section 2.3 of General Plan.

So back to my friend. I responded to her glee over “winning back her hill” by saying — “NOT SO FAST.” I explained that the ultimate decider on the hill, vis a vis the General Plan, was the Summit County Council. They still need to decide whether they support section 2.3 of the General Plan, and from what I have heard I wouldn’t say that is extremely likely. What she said next was enlightening.

She said, “How many times do I need to tell these people what I want? Me and a whole bunch of other Jeremy Ranch people showed up at a meeting [of the Planning Commission] and told them what we want. Now, a few months later they don’t remember? That is bull**it. How many f****** times do I need to say the same thing?”

I actually cleaned up the language a bit, believe it or not. The point is that residents don’t distinguish between the Planning Commission, the County Council, etc. All they know is they showed up in numbers for a meeting and said they don’t want growth in their backyard. If this had happened in Pinebrook or Old Ranch Road people would have showed up and said the same thing.

From my viewpoint, there seems to be a structural problem with the process. I was at the meeting at Ecker. You could not come away with any other impression than that these people were angry and they did not want increased development. Yet, a couple of people (developers and real-estate from what I’ve heard) show up at a County Council meeting on the General Plan two months later and said, “I have concerns with section 2.3 and if we don’t allow entitlements it could be a major disaster for our area” … and somehow they are on equal footing with 175 people who don’t want it? What about the previous meeting at Ecker? Does the County expect all 175 to show up again and say what they already said? Do they have to show up for EVERY meeting of the County Council that pertains to the General Plan to make sure their opinion is not forgotten?

The obvious answer should be no, but unless they do, it appears their opinion may not be accounted for. I have sat in countless hours of county council meetings and I understand that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and what’s heard most recently tends to carry more weight. The problem is that it’s not representative of what people think. There has to be some way for the County Council to take into account what’s happened before it and especially with the commissions it creates and is responsible for.

I’m not sure if the Planning Commission is not conveying the message appropriately or whether it’s just too hard to do. If it’s too hard, and we continue down this path, I’m sure Jeremy Ranch will try to muster the troops for one last push up the hill. They’ll do everything in their power to prevent growth above what’s already been approved.

Yet, that will be wasted public input. They already mustered one out of every five Jeremy Ranch residents to tell the county what they want. Why do they need to show up again? I constantly hear that the public never attends meetings. Yet, they seem to do that at lower levels of public government. The public seems to attack problems early, as you would probably expect (and want). Yet, it seems that that strategy may not be optimal or capable of achieving what our community wants.

Perhaps residents should ignore the Planning Commission, Basin Rec, and all other sub committees under Summit County. Then residents can wait until issues rises to the level of the County Council before they gather their limited resources to fight the fight. I guarantee you that you would have read a different story in the Park Record if Jeremy Ranch residents hadn’t attended the Planning Commission meeting but instead waited for the issue to hit the County Council and then showed up with 200 people to protest.

It seems like an unfortunate, and inefficient, way to act. However, given the actions around General Plan Section 2.3, it may be the only way to ensure that your opinion is heard.

I hope the County Council finds a way to consider the opinions of the 200 Jeremy Ranch citizens attending the meeting. If it helps, here is the recap of that meeting. While I don’t think limiting new development FOREVER is a solution that most Jeremy Ranch residents would be in favor of, I do think they would support limiting it until we use up rights already entitled. I hope the Summit County Council will see it the same way and take into account the view of residents throughout the entire process.

As Seen on I-80

Yesterday the State reminded us via road signs that they were increasing patrols to watch out for DUIs. I think the sign said “Increased enforcement of DUIs this holiday weekend.”

Today the message changed and I think it’s much better:


PSA: Recent Burglary Victim? Ask Your Detective to Contact American Fork Police

I heard from a reader that American Fork police recently made a huge bust. Evidently they captured people responsible for a large number of burglaries across the region. American Fork police have said that if you have an unsolved burglary, you should ask the detective who was handling your case to contact them in order to identify if your missing property was found.

A Different Perspective on PC CAPS

A community member wrote in with a different perspective on PC CAPS and one I didn’t consider in my previous article. She wrote, “Please watch Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. ALL of education is broken. CAPS maybe a way to re-think how we engage students in wanting to learn…”

While I still question the value of PC CAPS for reasons previously stated, the counter argument would be that we should embrace PC CAPS, not because of getting into college or future jobs, but because it is a better way to learn.

It’s an interesting take, and if true, perhaps the CAPS style of learning should be expanded past “client projects” to subjects like math and science.

Below is the TED Talk that our community member referenced. It is known as the quintessential TED talk on education. Watching it is time well spent:

Is The PC CAPS Program Money Well Spent?

I was 18 years old and standing in line for my high school diploma. It was graduation night and I was standing next to one of my friends, Tim. I’ll never forget the moment when Earl G. got his diploma and the stands erupted with cheers and clapping. Earl may now be a fine member of whatever community he ended up in, but back then he was a bully… a very popular bully. He spent more time in detention than class. At one moment he would be hitting your books out of your hand and in the next moment trying to stuff you into your locker. He was a “model” student.

Yet here he was getting more applause than everyone else combined up to that point. I turned to Tim and said, “wow, I wish I got that sort of attention.” Tim, who looked a lot like Paul Pfeiffer from the Wonder Years, stared at me in that “you just don’t get it” sort of way. Finally he opens his mouth and says, “For some people this will be the biggest night of their entire lives. That’s high school.”

That’s sort of how I feel about PC CAPS.

PC CAPS, for those who haven’t heard of it, is a three year old program that enables students to get real-world experience. Students work on a specified project for a company — and often in teams. It is a program that is adapted from a similar program called Blue Valley CAPS, in Overland Park, Kansas. To be completely fair, the program was awarded a STEM Excellence award earlier this year, so it is doing something right.

Yet, I wonder what it really does for kids and at what cost. According the PC CAPS website it says, “At PCCAPS our goal is to fast-forward students over college into their area of professional interest by giving them real-world project experience for real companies.”  That seems to imply that somehow this program is going to be useful in getting a job after college. Imagine an 18 year old working on a marketing campaign for a local company or even go bigger and imagine them doing that for a company like Adobe or EBay (in Salt Lake). When they graduate from college 5 years later will they even remember what they did on that project? More importantly would a recruiter from a company like Proctor and Gamble, or Nationwide Insurance, or Facebook, or Google care what someone did in high school?

That takes me back to my quote from my friend Tim. Those people who live in high school, mainly administrators, probably place a higher value on this program than anyone else. You also look at other factors a post-college recruiter may look at. If a college graduate actually put this on their resume and a recruiter actually asked about it, what questions might she ask?

  1. “Tell me about the project.” You are going to describe how you worked in teams and with a real company to do something. My response would be that if you haven’t done a ton of that in your 5 years in college, you aren’t even going to get that job interview.
  2. “How did you get this internship?” Yes, they will call it an internship, because that’s what it seems like. You’ll respond that you took a course and they found a job match for you. Would you have been better off hitting the pavement and trying to get that internship with on your own? It would be a better story to tell.
  3. “Did you work onsite at the company with professionals”. You would answer, well usually we worked in the school library and our mentors would come there. That’s going to seem even more like it’s just another high school class to a recruiter.

Those questions could go on and on. The point is that if you are going to college, you’ll get most of these experiences during your tenure there. You also will want to actually talk about those and not what you did when you were in high school.

So, what’s PC CAPS good for? The best use it probably to try to help get into college and there could be merit there. PC CAPS could give students something to write about in an essay. It might also give them a recommendation from a person they worked with on a project. However, those things are probably possible to get through working a traditional internship as well.

The question is whether that is spending money wisely. To accomplish that goal they’ve been renting out space for the program and now are spending up to $200,000 to renovate the high school’s library for the program to make a temporary home.  When they rebuild the high school they will construct space for the program. Budgets have been running about $450,000 per year and they need to add another partial FTE to the program. That’s real money being spent that could be used on more teachers, smaller classroom sizes, etc.

Instead, in my view, the money is being used a “neat” program that is probably a lot of fun but may be questionable value. In a few years I could be proven wrong. There could be students who comes back and says that PC CAPS got them their jobs at Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft and the PROGRAM MUST CONTINUE. I’ll believe that when I see it.

If you have a few minutes, I would recommend listening to this Bloomberg Radio interview with a well known author and recruiter. It was eye opening for me.  Who would have known being a taxi driver may help you get a better job than having a string of college internships.

Recruiter interview – Bloomberg Radio