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Buck up Park City. It’s going to be OK.

It’s strange times in Park City. There is anger in the air. There is depression in the air. All apparently because there is no snow in the air.

Around town you hear it from the locals. If it’s not a malaise brought about by lack of snow, it’s a fear that the snow is going to come in May and wreck mountain biking as well.

Some people just seem sad. Others are flipping out. Case in point are the two people (one of them being a passenger) I saw flip off bus drivers yesterday morning. What’s next? Flipping the bird to teachers? Firemen?

With that in mind, we thought we’d look for the silver lining in the rain weather we are experiencing now. So here are The Park Rag’s Top 10 reasons to be happy about the weather.

  1. Just think of all the little animals out there who are surviving and thriving this winter because they aren’t freezing their asses off. Somewhere there is a cute little deer who is alive because of this weather… And maybe somewhere there is a cute little mountain lion who will grow up to eat that cute little deer.
  2. Think of all the accidents that haven’t happened due to the snow. Somewhere, somebody’s car is dent free because of this weather.
  3. There’s plenty of room on the buses. We haven’t had to stand in a bus all season.
  4. We assume the reason everyone doesn’t pick up their poop at run-a-muck is due to the snow. Now, without snow, it should be SO poop-free that we should be be able to eat off the trail!
  5. The school district said that we needed a Fieldhouse because our Spring sports can’t practice outside until April. Looks like that Field house isn’t quite so necessary after all. The weather just saved us $20 million. Thank you weather.
  6. You haven’t had to pay someone to snow plow your driveway this season. Now you’ll be able to afford buying bottled water to water your grass this summer.
  7. If you didn’t buy an Epic Pass, looks like your procrastination cheapness disdain-for-crowds was a good choice and will save you over $600 this year!
  8. There won’t be crowds of visitors in Park City next Christmas. Who’s crazy enough to make the same mistake twice in a row?
  9. If you have one of those dogs that typically needs a coat in January, then your dog has had a good year (so far).
  10. February and March are the biggest snow months. So, in four weeks we may be wishing for Spring.

That’s all we got.

The snow may suck, but we still have Park City. Let’s be kind to each other.

Treasure deal must be SIMPLE

I was reading another Park Record article on the Treasure purchase. Each time I get more confused. What exactly is it that Parkites (I mean the 84060 variety) will be voting on and paying for? Are you buying all the Treasure land ? Most of it? Some of it? Will you get all the rights to development (and thus extinguish them)? Are you paying $64 million to enable a transfer of density, where a portion of the development rights go somewhere else? Whose density and rights are those? Is that why $90 million turned into $60 million?

So, what would you say the public is buying?

Damn it’s confusing.

That is likely by design. 

One of the things we have learned by watching Summit County and Park City government over the years is that unless something is concrete … it is quicksand. Today you are paying $60 million to not build at Treasure and tomorrow you will be paying another $60 million to not build somewhere else that was enabled by the rights from Treasure. 

We’ve heard concerns from a number of residents that the “Treasure Deal” is really a farce — that they want to put an agreement on the ballot that is so egregious that it won’t pass. Then the city government will say, “well we tried.” 

It’s dangerous times in Park City. As an outsider, I would recommend paying attention to not what your local leaders say… but how they say it.

If Park City really wants any chance of passing this, they need to make sure that all the Treasure Hill is put under a conservation easement with no other tie-ins. Buy it and give it to Summit Land Conservancy (or someone similar). Done and Done.

That is understandable. You know what you are getting for your $200 per year contribution for 20 years.

Anything else is very sketchy… which brings us back to those conspiracy theories.

One number you need to keep in your phone if you’re skiing PCMR/Canyons

Please take a minute and put this number in your phone:

435-615-1912

This is the number for Dispatch for Park City Mountain Resort. Should you, your family, or a random stranger need assistance it is the number to call while on-mountain.

My wife was at Canyons earlier this week and came upon a teenager who had fallen down the side of a cliff and couldn’t move. The mother was there but could only speak broken English. My wife tried to find a number to call for help (in the frigid temperatures) but the best she could do was find the general number for Park City Mountain. This didn’t do any good, as she waited on hold. Finally after a long-time, an Park City Resort Information worker skied by and my wife was able to flag her down. She was then able to radio for help. However, that was after many minutes of the poor girl screaming in pain.

We reached out to Vail Resorts about the way to handle future issues and Community Relations Manager Kristin Williams responded that you can download the Epic Mix app which has this information (which is good to know if you have the app loaded when trouble strikes), or you can call their dispatch number. 

Either way, we’d recommend you store 435-615-1912 in your phone just in case.

No trust… No vote… No money

Thank you to the people who made their voices heard on the proposed changes to the Summit Water Distribution Company (SWDC). It appears that over 70% of people voted against changes that gave very broad power over water consumption  to SWDC and would reduce the number of board members making decisions.

In my mind, this is another data point that highlights the changing ways in which voters in our community make decisions. If our leaders aren’t paying attention to what is happening, it’s time.

First came the Park City School District bond election in 2015. The school bond was defeated and the school board lashed out at the “uninformed voter.” They went to such lengths that they hired a research company to prove the board was right. Next came the South Summit School District bond. It was defeated too. This, despite the fact that many people would agree South Summit Schools are fairly crowded.

Most recently came the aforementioned Summit Water Distribution Company vote. I have to imagine that 10 years ago the board’s changes would have passed with flying colors. No one would have even know it was going on.

What we are learning is that today isn’t yesterday. Yes, something as arcane as changes to the bylaws of a local water company are questioned and defeated.

Why is it happening? I believe there are a number of factors converging that change the way decisions are made by the Park City area public.

It begins with community members’ interactions with employees of an organization. Those everyday actions appear to be shaping public opinion of the entire organization. In the case of Summit Water, the Park Rag received a number of phone calls describing the arrogance of SWDC employees. We’ve already reported about our neighbor’s interaction with a SWDC employee who told him he better get rid of his grass because they were going to cut back his water. We heard from one person who was told they had no right to use their water outside. When the person asked SWDC how they can keep their trees alive, apparently the response was that they could probably “spritz” them every once in a while but if they got caught they’d be fined. I had an experience where a representative from SWDC was walking the streets marking water mains in each persons’ property. When after two minutes he was frustrated that he couldn’t find the main, he yelled at me and told me that I had better find it or I would have to pay someone to come out and find it for me. It turned out he was just looking in the wrong place.

These every day interactions shape peoples’ feelings about the company and their trustworthiness. When you hear multiple stories that paint a negative light, it highlights a problem with either the culture or the leadership. Those feelings carry over into decisions like whether you should support the water company being able to restrict water to encourage conservation or whether you are Ok with the number of board members being reduced. If you love and trust the organization, you’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll do the right thing. If you don’t trust the leadership or the entire organization, you’ll question everything, and you won’t give them the rope to hang you with.

There are other examples of that. On the failed Park city School bond, there were pre-bond public meetings.  Early-on, there were three meetings at the school district offices with members of the community. The first meeting didn’t go great, so the second and third meetings were stacked with teachers to make it more orderly. During the meetings the goal was to decide where our schools would go. Better put, the school district appeared to have already decided where they wanted the buildings to go, so they crafted meetings to have the public agree with them. They did this by breaking the attendees into six tables, each with a school board or master planning person at a table to drive the conversation. They then created maps of the Basin and little stickers of schools. Each group was able to select where they would put their schools. They could put the stickers anywhere in the Basin they wanted as long as it was at Ecker Hill or the Kearns Campus. Not surprisingly, five of the six groups came up with essentially the same plan — the plan that had been devised for them.  The only group who did something else, was led by Terri Orr, who challenged the assumptions and put some schools on the west side of Highway 40, across from Home Depot.

The above sounds more conniving than it probably was. It’s likely the school board and master planning committee knew what they wanted and were trying to find a way to get public buy-in.  To the outsider who observes it, though, it starts to shape your view that the powers that be are trying to manipulate the public. That then makes you question everything going forward. So, when the final survey was done on why the Park City School District Bond failed, it told a story of uninformed voters. There’s probably some truth to that. However, informed or not, if the public doesn’t trust you, they aren’t going to vote for you.

A more recent example is a school dual-immersion introduction meeting held last week. I wasn’t there but heard from many community members that it was confusing and didn’t paint the process in a good light. Is that one meeting going to doom the next school bond. No but it does once again shape the public’s view of the organization. Much like if when you check into the hotel and the front desk clerk is a jerk, you start to get a negative opinion. The opinion can either be confirmed or reversed throughout your stay by other employees at the hotel. That opinion, sometimes shaped over years and hundreds of interactions, will alter how people process information, change the way they make decisions, and impact the way they vote.

What has also changed is the way people share those feelings about an organization. In years past, people gossiped at Rotary or maybe wrote a letter to the Park Record. Today people post information to Facebook and Next Door. The reach is immediate and wide. I feel confident in saying that Next Door has become more influential in shaping the public’s opinion than the Park Record. Yes, there are crazy posts out there. However, the information is often useful. Also, the discussion between residents often proves more useful.

Our local governments aren’t blind to this fact. You’ve probably seen the influx of the “community-relations-specialists” into our government positions in the past few years. One of their jobs is to help shape public opinion about their respective organizations.They do this in traditional ways by making sure the Park Record and KPCW have information from their organization’s point of view. They also try to use Facebook, Twitter, and in some cases Next Door to spread information. Their use of these new tools, though, isn’t as useful in forming public opinion. That’s largely because they are one person and a naturally-biased source. Again, they are doing their job, but it’s just not as effective as organic information coming from citizens.

This leads to outcomes like we saw with the Park City School Bond and SWDC vote. It’s also likely to impact any future vote over Treasure.

So, how do our local organizations adapt to ensure their best chance of receiving funding or have decisions go their way?

It’s hard to prescribe one answer for everyone. What I would say is that it begins with culture. Culture leads to having the best people in individual roles. Culture prescribes a way of an organization interacting with people.

If ultimately our local organizations can instill a culture that of trust, through hundreds of tiny interactions, we-the-public are likely to vote for their plans. It has to be real. It has to be from the heart. There can’t be an ounce of artificial nature in it.

If they can’t do that, we’ll likely continue to see failure after failure.

While there are exceptions, we believe a number of our local organizations have a long way to go to earn the public’s trust. Without, they are going to be grasping for reasons their funding plans fail… when the real answer is they need to look in the mirror.

We truly hope they figure it out. We do have a lot of needs in the Park City area.  Ultimately, it’s up to our local organizations to make changes that encourage people to both trust and fund them.

Invocation for the Sundance Film Festival Visitor

Thank you oh thank you Sundance Film Festival Visitor.
Thank you for the millions of dollars you bring to our community each year.
Thank you for screening films, so the rest of us can watch them on Netflix.
Thank you for taking every hotel room, so we can ski fresh powder.
Thank you for paying a $100 for a burrito, so our restaurants can survive.

May you find a town that has metamorphosed into just what you want, for at least a couple of weeks.
May you actually listen to Robert Redford’s opening remarks, because they actually mean something.
May you get six inches of snow tonight, so Park City appears to be the place you think it is.
May you have rented a 4WD, in case you actually get that six inches of snow.
May you not experience a drug overdose, on Main Street, at some club at 3AM.
May you not get Harvey Weinstein’d in that same club at 4AM.
May you treat locals you meet with respect, or at least not be a complete douchebag.
May you find the perfect pair of fur underwear at Alaskan Fur.
May you find some meaning (any meaning) in the respect rally.
May you know how to perform a zipper merge on Highway 248.
May your wardrobe include something besides black, since the PIB monicker is getting really old.

So, thank you oh thank you visitor to the Sundance Film Festival.
While many of us will do everything we can to avoid you,
We do appreciate that you come.

Summit County has failed us

Summit County government has failed the populace with its decisions on Woodward at Gorgoza.

As you may have heard, The Snyderville Basin Planning Commission approved a new development at the Gorgoza Sledding Park. According to the Park Record it will “include a more than 52,000-square-foot action-sports center, equipped with indoor trampolines, ramps, foam pits, pump tracks, concrete skate park and a digital media studio. Other amenities would include a food court, lounge and coffee house, and a party room.” Outdoor amenities planned include lift served snow sports, riding and teaching terrain, expanded snow making tubing, a four-person chair lift, an outdoor skate park, expanded mountain biking trail system and freestyle-mountain biking terrain.

Also, keep in mind the 52,000 square foot building will be 45 feet high. That is 13 feet taller than is generally allowed in the Snyderville Basin. Just for reference, that is over 25% bigger than the new Whole Foods and over 10 feet taller.

So, how did we get here?

In 1999 POWDR Corp signed a development agreement with Summit County that speaks to a small indoor lodge and outdoor recreation. The Project Description says “Gorgoza park will offer a variety of non-motorized outdoor recreational activities that may include: snow tubing with up to 5 tube tows with up to four lanes per tow; snowplay; snowboarding accessed via a chair lift with a terrain park and two half pipes; snowblades and skiing; ice rink and skating; snowshoe and ski trails; winter alpine slide rides; toboggan and luge/bob rides; all terrain carts and thrill sleds; a climbing wall; a skate park and an all terrain skateboard area; BMX and mountain bike trails; alpine slide rides, and other uses consistent with the mountain outdoor recreation setting.”

What was approved then was truly an outdoor recreation facility.

What we will have now is that outdoor recreation facility, plus a 45 foot tall, 52,000 sq foot building (with a food court, coffee shop, etc, etc, etc.).

From a public perspective, it’s not the same thing that was originally agreed to in 1999. Yet, Summit County seemed to bend over backwards to make this work. In December 2016, the Summit County Council voted 3-2 to allow the height exception enabling the overside building to be built. Their reasoning seemed to be that we want recreation around Park City, and this development can’t work without a 45 tall building, so they allowed it.

They seemed to remember that Parkites like recreation but forgot that we have a water problem. They forgot we have a traffic problem. They forgot we have an affordable housing problem. They forgot we have a problem with employees driving up from the valley to work.

They also forgot that this decision could set a dangerous precedent for exceeding height restrictions. If all someone needs to prove is that you need the extra height to function, that’s a pretty low bar. I should say not all forgot, as council member Roger Armstrong cited that concern and voted against the height exception.

If the Council would have enforced the height restriction, and a 45 foot tall building was required to make the building viable, maybe Woodward at Gorgoza would have remained an outdoor facility as originally agreed to. Possibly, Woodward at Gorgoza may not have happened at all. Either way there would likely be less impact.

The second issue that happened along the way is that the Summit County Planning Department ruled that the 52,000 sq ft building was an accessory use to the property. This opened up the ability for the Woodward folks to apply for a conditional use permit (CUP). Once a CUP is all that is needed for development, all that can really be done per Utah law is to try and mitigate issues like traffic.

This then led the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission to approve the conditional use permit. While it would be easy to blame them for their approval, all they can generally do is try to mitigate issues once they are facing a conditional use permit. It’s much like the judge that has to let the murderer go on technicalities. In this case, all they can really do is to try to fix as many issues as possible. They can’t prevent it. They were put in this position by the decisions made before the issue came to them.

Of course, there are people who are excited for this development. They think it will improve property values. They believe it will be great to have a recreation facility so close to Pinebrook and Jeremy Ranch. Of course, everyone is entitled to their opinion. That doesn’t change the fact that this development isn’t like what was originally approved. Given our current issues, it’s hard to see how the new agreement is better for the populace than what was originally agreed upon in 1999. In fact, if the development was delayed (or never happened at all), it would likely be better for traffic, noise, pollution, affordable housing, and the water issues we currently face.

The county buys a property like Cline Dahle for millions in order to put in a transportation hub and affordable housing, and then just further exacerbates the problems we are all trying to solve, by enabling something like Woodward at Gorgoza. It makes no sense.

On this one, we believe Summit County government completely botched this.