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How many more multi million dollar homes do we need?

We saw a story in the online magazine The Observer entitled, “Live Like It’s Always Sundance at This Chic New Park City Development.”

When we read the following line in the article, we took notice, “Those who happen to adore the locale not just for that celebrity-infested period in January might want to check out developer Columbus Pacific’s new Apex Residences Park City, a luxe mountain resort on ten acres in Canyons Village. But back to the Apex Residences, which will be comprised of 63 three- to five-bedroom homes. The residences will range in size from 2,080 square feet up to 3,800 square feet. The luxe collection of homes ranges from $1 to 3 million, with the option of overlook, plaza, or clubhouse level residences.”

Sixty three $1MM-$3MM residences? Wow.

We always knew that the Canyons were only 25%-30% built out but maybe we were so naive that we didn’t consider that the remaining 75% of the land would be filled with $2 million condos.

Of course, they have the development rights to build it. What we question is if they build it, will they come? Of course, they’ve already sold 23 of them, so maybe the answer is yes.

Perhaps the better question is, how many people are out there willing to spend $2 million on a second home in Park City? Perhaps more than we thought.With building like this, we better hope so.

The problem with surveys…

We remember when we first started following the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission, they were discussing an update to the General Plan. The General Plan guides what development should be allowed. Repeatedly, a survey from a few years before, where a hundred residents showed up, and completed some sort of activity, that then ranked the top priorities, was used (in part) to guide the discussion. We had a hard time believing the information was being used… A self selected group, doing some exercise that ranked priorities, but that few (if any people) knew actually how it was derived, from a couple years before was helping to make decisions.

And that’s why we frankly hate government surveys. You never know how (or when) they are going to be used.

Today we stumbled upon a survey that was linked from the Summit County website entitled, “We want to know your preferences and priorities regarding public land management within Summit County.” Fair enough, we use public land when we camp and hike (and many other times) so we thought we should give our opinion, and it reminded us of why we hate these things. What were the questions?


Question 1: Rank these public land resource values in your preferred order of importance, highest to lowest, with 1 being the highest importance. The options were things like protecting water quality, protecting natural resources, etc. So, that one made sense.

Question 2: On a scale of 1 to 10, how high of a priority do you feel the following resource topics are for county resource management planning? This is where it started to go off the rails. The answers were things like mining, land use, land access, air quality, wilderness, recreation & tourism, etc. If we answer that recreation & tourism is a high priority, do we mean that we want more recreation & tourism or do we mean that we want it managed more effectively? If we say wilderness is a top priority for county resource planning, does that mean that we want the county to take federal lands back and manage them or that we need to protect our wilderness more? It’s confusing.

Question 3: Pick your top 5 resource priorities. There is then a list of things: mining, land use, land access, recreation & tourism, noxious weeds, etc. Of course, some of these are obvious. If you pick noxious weeds as your top choice, you want the county to manage weeds better. If you choose recreation and tourism, what does that mean? We guess that you want the county make it a priority to do something related to recreation & tourism. If you’re for an expansion of economic development in Summit County your understanding of that question is likely diametrically opposed to someone who thinks development of Park City should have stopped in 1985. Bad questions.

We could continue with the other 8 questions (some are better than others) but the point is that good surveys are tough to do. Another point is that our local governments (Park City, Summit County, PCSD) shouldn’t factor in results from anything less than a good survey. If the survey was from Survey Monkey (on the internet), you might as well go to the Hogle Zoo and find your answer.

Finally, if a good survey has been done, and the results are guiding local governments, BUT THE SITUATION CHANGES, the results of that survey should no longer be valid. Let’s say that a survey was done that said we need more ice rinks. So a bond is passed to build another ice rink; however, someone in Wasatch County announces they are building a skating facility and we know that a huge percentage of our current ice rink’s users are from Heber, do we still need to build an ice rink? It should factor in heavily and results of any survey saying we need more ice is likely is much less valid

Likewise, maybe a survey was done 3 years ago that says that we need more aquatic facilities. Then, perhaps,the Basin Rec decides that they will add swimming lanes to the field house. That original survey’s conclusion is no longer necessarily valid for other decisions. If the county, city, and Basin Rec decide to jointly build another field house, should it include swimming? Maybe or maybe not… but since swimming is now planned for the old field house, the results from a survey done before the facts on the ground changed, aren’t valid.

Now, people may say results of a bad survey are better than nothing. “At least we know what some people are thinking” would be the claim. We completely disagree. Most of our local, government surveys involve a zero sum game. There is only so much money to go around.

We shouldn’t rely on the results of some random survey or meeting to guide our local governments. We especially shouldn’t allow a survey with questions that could be interpreted in a number of ways to guide us. The survey we saw today reminded us of that. If a crowd gathered in 2009 and was asked “Due to the economic crisis should we do anything and everything possible to spur development around Park City?” Many people would likely have said yes at the time. Would that answer be called scientific? Does it still apply today?

Likely not.

And that is what we fear from government surveys that are used to justify a course of action.

Park City School District and Associate Superintendent are parting ways; agree to $200,000+ Severance

On the 13th of July, The Park City Board of Education and Associate Superintendent Tom Van Gorder entered into a “Severance, Waiver, and Release” agreement. The agreement conveys that:

  • Mr Van Gorder’s tenure with the district will end on 8/31/2016
  • The District will pay up to $200,000 to purchase retirement service credit for Mr Van Gorder
  • The District will pay for 180 days of insurance benefits for Mr Van Gorder
  • The District will pay Mr Van Gorder his Administrative bonus for 2015/2016, outstanding sick leave, and vacation leave.

There are also other pieces of the agreement: Mr Van Gorder and the district agree not to sue the each other, the district will provide letters of recommendation for Mr Van Gorder, both parties agree not to disparage each other, and the agreement is confidential (unless required by law to share…which the district was required to share), etc..

We won’t editorialize this much. We’ve talked with Mr Van Gorder only a handful of times, and he was always very pleasant, nice, and knowledgable. We take the school district at their word (per this agreement) that he was “a very valuable employee”, “has considerable knowledge”, and has “received consistently excellent evaluations.”

We still will note that $200,000-plus is a lot of money.

In case you’d like to review it, here is the agreement we received via GRAMA request from the School District. We have masked signatures because we wouldn’t want our signatures on the Internet (and assume these parties don’t either).

What’s also interesting to watch is the school board meeting where they ultimately approve this agreement. Here is the overview of the discussion:

  1. Motion is made to approve and second the “separation agreement.” They enter discussion.
  2. School Board member Nancy Garrison says she would like to discuss the matter. Ms. Garrison says she is “fully in support of the Superintendent forming her own administrative team so she can achieve her goals… but I don’t think this agreement represents the best use of public funds.”
  3. Then one of the board members (can’t tell who from the video) says, “we’ll need further discussion before I can vote for it.”
  4. School Board President says, “then we’ll need to adjourn to closed session.” They do.
  5. They come back and Board member Phil Kaplan has joined them via phone.
  6. Another motion is made that they vote on the agreement
  7. Board member Phil Kaplan, via phone says, these types of agreements are more common in the corporate world, in order for a team to function well you not only need the best players but those players that work well together, and this is not a high cost sort of deal. He says he will support it.
  8. Board member, Julie Eihausen says she agrees with what Nancy said but that “for our district to be able to move forward, we need to move forward.”
  9. School Board president Tania Knauer then says she agrees with Phil and Nancy and wants to do what is best for kids and moving on is what’s best for kids. So, she is for it.
  10. Ms Garrison then votes against the motion. Mr Kaplan, Ms Eihausen, and Ms Knauer vote for it.
  11. The agreement passes.

Strange. The public is left to try and piece it all together. What exactly is going on?

We still come back to the fact that $200,000 (plus benefits) IS A LOT OF MONEY. We have the same question as School Board member Nancy Garrison, is this the best use of public funds? Mr Kaplan stated that this isn’t a high cost sort of deal. We suppose it’s not in the same league with the reported $40 million buyout Fox News paid to Roger Ailes after he allegedly sexually harassed a coworker. However, for a district that has had to recently raise taxes because it went negative into its rainy day fund, $200,000+ is real money.

We are sure there is more here, but it’s obvious that the district wants to move forward and quickly… “for the good of the children.”

Again, what exactly happened here?

If you are interested, here are the school board videos that (we guess) discuss the agreement.

Bravo Vail on Withdrawing Trademark Application

Jay Hamburger and the Park Record is reporting Vail is withdrawing its trademark application. The reason, according to the press release was “This has clearly become a distraction that is pulling our collective focus away from the important work that lies ahead for our city on critical issues, such as affordable housing, parking and transit among others. As such, we have decided to withdraw our trademark application in an effort to move beyond this concern.”

So, kudos Vail. You did good today. Lot’s of people warned us that that wasn’t possible. We know you’ll likely still market the resort as Park City, outside of Park City. We know you still hold a lot of power with what now happens in our community. We know that you will bring as many visitors as is humanly possible to our town (we see that as a bad thing)… But we also know you are reasonable.

For that, we thank you.

I guess now I can buy my Epic Pass. I wasn’t going to and I’m sure a lot of others weren’t either.

We’ll also be updating our page to reflect the events of what happened over the last few months. However, at least as of now, it appears it won’t have a bad ending.

A better way to read the Park Record online

Recently the Park Record changed its online website format. They are now using the WordPress publishing system, which is used by used by many websites and blogs (including the Park Rag). Unfortunately, the new format they chose can be a little hard to read. There are ads interspersed everywhere, image galleries are at the top of pages that can be distracting, and it seems hard to find all the new stories.

Of course, opinions vary, so you may really like it. Fair enough. However, if share our same feelings, we think we’ve found the optimal way of reading the Park Record online.

Instead of going to, go here:

Instead of trying to navigate a confusing home page, you’ll see a simple list of stories.

Of course, we believe the absolute best way to read the Park Record is to subscribe to their E-Edition. It is only $48 a year and is fabulous on an iPad. That the way to both support the writers and to help ensure that our local paper stays with us for as long as possible. You also save trees from being cut down.

Doing web development for a living, I don’t disparage the Park Record for switching formats to WordPress. WordPress is free and it works… but it’s also sometimes really hard to keep the interface clean. In this case, the Park Record appears to have fallen into that trap. We hope this tip makes the online version a better experience for you.

Dana Williams’ Impassioned Speech at the Park City Vail Protest

During yesterday’s Park City Vail Resorts trademark protest, former Park City mayor Dana Williams gave an impassioned 3 minute speech on how our community has a good case against Vail Resorts trademarking the name “Park City.” He told us that “we could always make a deal” but that we should not let them trademark “Park City” from the get to. He also says that he doesn’t think either Vail’s contract offered to local companies or the agreement offered by Park City Municipal were good enough.

Below is that video. I apologize that Dana is only visible for part of it. There were just too many people for us to get close and too many signs being held up to block the camera (both good things). However, give it a watch/listen and you’ll likely come away with the conclusion that it’s not just Park City Municipal and Vail deciding this issue… but it’s our entire community….

That’s a good thing.

Pictures from Today’s Park City “Vail = Fail” Protest

At least 200 hundred people attended today’s protest against Vail trademarking the Park City name… Maybe 201, if we include Vail CEO, Rob Katz, who was in town to meet with Park City Municipal leaders, and came out and talked to protesters (in a friendly way).

Later today we’ll have the video of Dana Williams speech during the event, but for now, here are some pics:










h/t to Melissa for the correction on Rob’s name

Time to Start the War on Cats

Now that Park City has effectively ended the War on Dogs (bravo) by opening up regulations on off-leash dogs, we suppose it is time to turn our attention to another animal that may actually be wreaking more havoc in our ecosystem.

No, this animal isn’t biting you at Round Valley. It isn’t knocking you off your bike on the Rail Trail… but it is killing the wildlife we all know and love. What animal is it? (Ok, we know you know what animal it is from the title). The CAT!

A reader sent in an article from the Washington Post highlighting the damage cats do to our environment. According to the Washington Post report, “Outdoor are the leading cause of death among both birds and mammals in the United States, according to a new study, killing 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion birds each year.” According to the study cited from Nature Communications, “Researchers estimate that one pet cat kills one to 34 birds a year, while a feral cat kills 23 to 46 birds annually. As a result, the new study provides a wide range of the total bird death count.”

I know that our community’s focus on animal deaths is centered on moose hit by cars. However, is a moose or elk life more important than a bird or marmot? Probably not. Something is still killed that we wished wasn’t so (and for no reason… there is no value in it).

So, do we call for a ban on cats in Park City? Do we start a campaign to eradicate feral cats? No. But it does put priorities in order. We spent years talking about off-leash dogs that anger people (and in some cases have bitten people…although our area’s numbers are below average). However, we haven’t spent one minute discussing a species that has likely killed thousands of wild animals in the past couple of years.

Why not? Good question.

h/t to the reader who sent this in