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.