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KPCW, don’t get bullied by the Park City School District

Over the past two weeks, KPCW did what a competent news organization does. They reported on the actions of the Park City School District related to enforcing masks at Parley’s Park Elementary School. On Thursday, the school district went Full Bully on KPCW. Their lawyer sent a letter to KPCW. PCSD’s lawyer, Joan Andrews, writes:

“Specifically, on November 17, 2021, you [KPCW] published in various media, including on your website and Facebook pages, the following statement: ‘During Tuesday’s Park City school board meeting, board member Andrew Caplan said Parley’s Park Elementary School did not violate the county mask order and called reports of violation fake news.’ This statement is demonstrably false and on behalf of the Board of Education, we demand the immediate retraction of same. More specifically, at no time was the term “fake news” used by Mr. Caplan. The use of this term appears deliberately calculated to create the belief in the community that Mr. Caplan is opposed to Summit County Public Health Order mask mandate, which he is not, nor is the Board as a whole.”

KPCW responded by saying, “The articles and broadcasts of which your client complains are truthful and accurate. Moreover, KPCW’s use of the words “fake news” is a fair and accurate representation of board member Andrew Kaplan’s comments during Tuesday’s meeting and such use absolutely was not ‘a deliberately calculated’ attempt to imply Mr. Kaplan or the board is against the Summit County public health order mask mandate. Despite our belief that KPCW could correctly continue to use those words, we have decided it is even more accurate – and in the listeners and readers’ best interest – to use direct quotes from Mr. Caplan instead of characterizing them.”

The Park City School District’s lawyer argued that KPCW used the term ‘fake news’ to imply Mr. Caplan and the school district were against mask mandates. KPCW argued that the term was accurately used to characterize Mr. Caplan’s comments.

I don’t believe KPCW is trying to say that Mr. Caplan, or the district administration, is against mask mandates. I think KPCW is saying that Mr. Caplan implied that the school district followed mask mandates at PPES from day one, when all signs point to the fact that they didn’t. If they didn’t follow the mandates, then they broke the law.

However, what I find rich from the Park City School District lawyer’s letter was the bullying from an organization that is responsible for teaching our children.

Park City School District’s lawyer writes, “In the meantime, the Board has asked me to convey that Board members and District administrators will not be engaging with KPCW with respect to its repeated queries for comment, appearances, or other interactions, at least until we have clarity around the outcome of the review of what happened during week one of the Parley’s Park Elementary School mandate. The Board and District will continue to communicate on matters of importance to their constituents through other channels.”

Did the school board members take the Welcoming Schools training? That statement from the Park City School Board is pure bullying. “Leave us alone or you’ll lose access to the school district!”

If I were KPCW, I would say, “That sounds fine PCSD. We, as a news organization, will continue to report the news. We are ready to speak to you whenever you are ready. We’ll continue to report the news based upon your school board meetings and your public reporting requirements.”

KPCW is frankly above this fray. KPCW reports the news and it appears the school board doesn’t like it. They seem to view it as some sort of vendetta against them. There is no vendetta; there is only the hope for honesty. KPCW is reporting on what they are seeing, hearing from people on-site, and comments from our community.

KPCW, please don’t back down against these threats. If the school district won’t speak to you, that’s their loss.

KPCW, you are doing great work in our community. You are the best news source in the Wasatch Back.

If you don’t fight for the people’s right to know what is happening, who is going to do it?

Most of us trust you far more than we trust them.

Keep up the good fight.

Video of Park City School Board Meeting on 11/16/21 Open Comment on PPES situation

On Tuesday, the Park City Schol Board met and a number of parents attended to speak about the lack of enforcement of the Parley’s Park mask mandate. A few supporters of the school board spoke as well.

For some reason, the Park City School District no longer records videos of meetings. However, we were able to capture most of it.

I apologize for the quality. I arrived late, there was no place for a tripod, and I didn’t have the sound configured correctly until halfway through. So the video isn’t great. However, if you are interested, you definitely see a lot.

Pictures say a thousand words. I wish the school district would record the video portion of all meetings.

The Summit County Health Department needs to get its stuff together on Covid boosters

For those not aware, Utah Governor, Spencer Cox announced yesterday that all Utahns were at high risk for Covid-19 and thus anyone could get a booster shot. With that news, I registered online with Summit County for a booster shot and arrived at the Summit County Health Department for my 11 AM appointment today. After waiting an hour in the packed health department, I was ushered back to the nurse.

She gave me a funny look and asked what my profession was. I said, “software developer.” She said you don’t look like you have a high BMI. Do you have diabetes? I said no. She then asked why I was there to get a covid booster. I said, well, I really don’t want to be here. I had a bad experience with side effects for the Moderna shot but that I am in my kid’s hockey locker room with 15 kids and I just want to do everything I can to not get, or spread, Covid.

The nurse then explained that I couldn’t get a booster, even though the Governor had OK’d it yesterday. She said that Summit County needed to complete a health order and that if she gave me the vaccine that it could be malpractice. She said they had plenty of doses, but there was no way she could do it. She said they had a meeting this morning and that was the official rule. She was very nice about it, and I realize she probably would have given me my booster if she could have, but those were the rules. So I was polite and left.

But I am furious.

There is no excuse for the Summit County Health Department to have not had a signed health order ready to go as of 8 AM this morning. It makes me wonder whether they will have anything signed today. It is Friday, after all. Will they get to it next week? Well, it is a holiday week. So, I wouldn’t count on it.

This is such a charged issue. The Governor, who is Republican says “vaccine boosters for everyone.” Summit County, which is Democrat-run, can’t be bothered to be ready. What sort of bizarro world am I living in?

The real problem is that I don’t really want to get a booster. When I received my second vaccine dose I was in bed for the next day, wearing socks on my hands, because the chills were so bad. Yet, I sucked it up, because of risk factors in my life. Hockey locker rooms are really small. One of my son’s teammates came down with Covid this week. I don’t want to get or spread Covid in the locker room if I can help it. Oh and I’m also spending time with my wife’s aging parents over the next ten days. I don’t know what extra protection a few days of a booster could give me, but I assume it’s something.

It’s just unconscionable that Summit County wasn’t ready to give boosters to anyone who wanted one on day one. For the record, I am pro-vaccine for me. I am pro-choice for you. I just wanted to get a booster and protect myself and those people around me.

Summit County robbed me of that choice. Maybe someday in the future, I’ll try again to get that booster shot. Until that point, what the Health Department did to me today, and potentially others made us all less safe.

Random thoughts from Yesterday’s Park City School Board Meeting

Yesterday, the Park City Schol Board met in regular session. As usual, there was a period of open comment. Yesterday’s open comment was centered on concerned parents about the handling of the PPES mask mandate and people in support of the school board. It was an interesting exchange between the School Board, parents, and board supporters.

I won’t rehash the arguments, as most of those, in both directions, were covered in the Park Rag Comments section on our previous story. I’ll also post a link to the meeting below, in case you want to “watch” for yourself.

However, here are some random observations from the meeting:

  • There was an opening statement on the topic from the school board. It was, “We think it is important to acknowledge that there have been some questions related to the public health order at Parley’s Park and the school’s initial response. While we acknowledge this and we are conducting a review of the process, we have been advised that we not make further public comment on the matter. Please rest assured that we will continue to work closely with the state, county, and health department as we continue to prioritize the health and safety in open schools.”
  • Brad Asay, President of the Utah American Federation of Teachers Utah, brought up the teachers’ angle on this. He spoke about the transparency and processes of the district during Covid and how that has impacted teacher safety. I had been thinking about the kids but teacher impact is a good point.
  • School Board member Andrew Caplan responded to Mr. Asay, “The notion that is been in the public and reported on that we are not in compliance with the state, county health codes is incorrect and that is a fact and that fact is backed up by the four inspections done by the county health department. So, anyone who believes that we were in violation of the county mask mandate or there was anything around that, that is simply not factually correct. I just want to clarify that. The popular narrative right now… we have received a number of emails upset with that notion, and rightfully so, had we been in violation, had we not been following the county rules, people have the right to be upset. But to imply that it is an unsafe work environment or to imply that we were not following county/state codes is simply not correct. I’m sorry you had incorrect information.”
  • The problem with Mr Caplan’s statement is the timeline and perhaps the parsing of words. Is the school district in compliance with the health order today? I would sure hope so. Were they on November 5th when the health department arrived on the scene, after KPCW called them out? I would sure hope so. The real question is whether they were in compliance during the first week of the mask mandate and whether the school district’s actions contributed to lack of safety. If measures weren’t in place day one, it would be like a restaurant that kept chicken at 50 degrees, food-poisoned some customers, heard the health department was coming, and made sure the chicken was then cold enough. Then when the restaurant manager was questioned they used the excuse that they meant to tell the kitchen staff that chicken should be at 36 degrees but it may have been misinterpreted. In the real world, regardless of that excuse, the restaurant is still getting shut down. Maybe PPES was in compliance on day one, but from everything I have read it wasn’t. Until this KPCW article is refuted in detail, the school district has a problem.
  • There seems to be some discussion over the communication of what a mask mandate is. I know when you are running an organization like the school district, things get complicated. However, to an average person like me, if someone asked me what a mask mandate in a school was, I would know. “Everyone wears a mask over their nose and mouth.” That’s not hard from a layperson’s perspective. The school board would likely ask, “what are you going to do about the exceptions?” I would then turn to the actual law. I’m not a lawyer but I can read. It took me almost 3 minutes to Google and find section 4 of the Health Order where the lawyers have specifically stated the exceptions. Strangely enough I don’t find any references to parent-related exceptions.
  • School Board President Erin Grady said that she has been to all schools in the last few days to make sure they are ready for a mask mandate. I appreciate that, I really do given the circumstances. However, it’s almost Thanksgiving. The time to do that was before Labor Day and it probably really isn’t her job.
  • I really appreciated that the school board would allow people to speak a little bit over their 3 minutes of allotted time. It allowed people to finish their thoughts.
  • I thought having two police officers there was a little over the top. I remember a sheriff deputy being at a County Council meeting once, but that was due to a specific threat. Maybe this is normal for schools, but it seemed a little weird. I do have to say the nice officer did help my 7-year old find the bathroom.
  • Here is the link to the meeting
  • So, if you’re like me, the craziest thing with the meeting link is that it is on Youtube. As you start to watch, you’ll see video. You’ll see school board members speaking amongst themselves. Then, as the official meeting starts, they cut off the video. We are left with audio only on Youtube. It’s not because they don’t have the equipment to do video. It seems it’s because they don’t want to be ON video. It makes it hard follow which board member is saying what. Stepping back to 30,000 feet, this is a metaphor for the transparency people are seeking from our school district.

Park City School Superintendent Dr. Gildea has lost our trust. Now what?

We at the Park Rag have been critical of the school district in the past. The 2015 bond was a disaster. The school district has hurt substitute teachers (and our kids) by hiring a temp agency to manage substitutes and caused a substitute teacher shortage at the worst possible time. They inexplicably tried to keep teachers’ kids out of schools and then apparently didn’t tell the truth when called out. And let’s not forget the magic rock.

That’s not to say that they haven’t had their successes. Teachers got a raise. We made it through the 2020/21 school year with in-person classes and minimal disruptions. The new bond proposal focused on facilities and passed overwhelmingly. We still have some great teachers (though some have left) and a cadre of wealthy above-average Lake Wobegone kids to keep our rankings relatively high.

But when Parley’s Park elementary came under the supervision of officials from the Health Department, after superintendent Gildea instructed teachers and staff not to enforce a legal mask mandate, our limited remaining trust in the school district administration was lost.

Regardless of your feelings about masks, the Republican-led Utah Legislature made a law allowing local health departments to determine school rules under certain circumstances. The Summit County Health Department used its authority, granted by the legislature, to make rules intended to protect students and staff. According to news reports, Dr. Gildea actively prevented those rules from being implemented.

As an aside, KPCW has done a fantastic job covering this story (Michelle Deininger at KPCW has been amazing on this coverage). We would also be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge Summit County attorney Margaret Olson for calling it as she sees it when she said “…it’s apparent that things went terribly wrong.”

The superintendent has floated various explanations. In our view, none of them can possibly excuse this behavior. If Dr. Gildea was unsure of the law, it would have been trivial to call Summit County and resolve any questions as soon as she became aware that the mandate might need to be implemented. The superintendent has wavered between claiming that the mandate is legally unenforceable to saying she was misunderstood and that the school needs a “reset.” At some points, she appears to have contradicted herself within the same day.

Dr. Gildea’s response might best be characterized as panicked, defiant, and incoherent. The school board, on the other hand, could best be characterized as absent. That’s right, not a word about the situation. Not an explanation, not an apology, not even some boilerplate that says “we look forward to clearing up this misunderstanding and want to make it clear that the health and safety of our school community is our top priority.” Maybe they’re tired of all the criticism, or exhausted from pushing the bond through, or just sick of doing a thankless and unpaid job. Unfortunately, however, it’s a job they signed up for, and they owe the community an explanation. If none is forthcoming, people will assume the worst.

While the past is concerning, the future is equally worrisome. Our community just handed an open check for $79 million to the Park City School District. The district believes they have a mandate for an additional $40 million more to add on to our schools. Do you want someone you don’t trust administering that? The district previously was cited for awarding inappropriate contracts that violated Utah state law. Are we OK if that happens again? Given recent events, would we expect anything different? What else could happen? These are the questions asked when you lose trust.

It hit home late last week. My wife and I were discussing the issue while our seven and nine-year-old ate breakfast. They are the consumers of school and they have a right to know what is going on. One of the kids looked up, his eyes in shock, “Mrs. [insert his teacher name here] didn’t do what’s right?” We were mortified and quickly explained that it wasn’t his teacher. Yet, should we be less mortified that we were discussing his teacher’s boss? Sometimes kids bring out the truth. We as humans all have flaws, but when you run schools, you can’t defy the Health Department. You can’t have the Summit County Attorney speaking about criminal liability in reference to your school superintendent’s actions.

As the old saying goes, “never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity”. Unfortunately neither malice nor stupidity, regardless of which was responsible here, is acceptable in a school superintendent (or board).

So, now what?

The question to ask is whether we need a different superintendent. The people responsible for that answer are our elected school board. If you asked them, they would tell you they can’t speak on the issue of personnel matters. However, if they aren’t actively discussing this question, we likely need a different school board, too.

We expect a lot out of our kids. We expect them to be honest. We expect them to tell the truth. We expect them to follow the rules. We expect them to stand up for what is right.

Don’t we expect the same things from those who are responsible for their education?

Opposed to Dakota Pacific? The deck is stacked against you.

What a surprise. Summit County moved the Dakota Pacific meeting from November 17th to December 1st.

Why would they ever do that?

It could be because there was a problem with the meeting space or because a County Councilor couldn’t make it.

However, my bet is it’s because Summit County wants to hamper the campaign against the development.

Let’s take a step back and talk about who is FOR and AGAINST this development.

In my opinion, on the FOR side, we have Dakota Pacific, Summit County Planning Department, and most of the Summit County Council.

On the AGAINST side, we have the people.

What the County seems to be doing is an age-old tactic. There is a petition against the effort with more than 3,000 signatures. Countless letters have been written against the development. Over 500 people were likely to show up and speak against Dakota Pacific on November 17th.

So, if you are a government organization that doesn’t like the way things are going, what do you do?

Postpone and delay. Change the playfield. I can imagine the County Council saying, “How can we vote for a proposal when 500 people, over 3 hours, speak against the development on November 17th? What can we do?” Then someone says, “delay it.”

What Dakota and Summit County are likely doing is fivefold.

  • First, they want distance between all the negative letters to the Park Record and the vote.
  • Second, they want to line up their own positive letters in the Park Record that can be run right before the vote.
  • Third, they are depending on Thanksgiving to remove the energy.
  • Fourth, they need to line up people to speak at the meeting in December 1st.
  • Fifth, Dakota is likely slightly altering their proposal with something that will “sound” better than the current proposal and will allow the County Council to say that they are voting for this proposal because Dakota is working with them and this new shining thing makes it worth it, even though the public is against it.

It’s all theater designed for them to find a way for the Summit County Council to vote for a bad development.

If you are against Dakota Pacific’s proposal, you have work to do.

  • If you have written a letter to the Park Record, you need to write another one. There are so many reasons to oppose this devleopment. There have to be other points that you didn’t bring up the first time. Letters matter.
  • If you haven’t written a letter, write one. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Three sentences that explains how you feel about this development is all you need. Here is how you do it.
  • Keep emailing the County Council. It probably won’t make a difference because, although they are supposed to represent their electorate, they don’t seem to be doing that here.
  • Watch for changes in the last minute and don’t let those change the debate.
  • Most importantrly… Show up on December 1st. Your voice matters.

It’s hard when the people are fighting against government interests. Government has all the power. We the people don’t have the power, but we do have the numbers.

Dakota Pacific’s development would negatively alter the corridor to Park City. It will negatively impact traffic. It will negatively impact water. It will negatively impact our schools. It won’t put a dent in affordable housing. The people have shown they are against this. We need to keep up the fight. We can stop Dakota Pacific. We can’t allow the powers that be to go against what people want and continue this horrible development.

They are trying, but we need to say no. Keep up the good fight.

Basin Rec is asking for up to a 10% increase in employee salary

I love Basin Rec. Their children’s sports programs are great. Their people are great. Their facilities are great, except for the cancerous indoor field. Today, however, let’s talk about their request for salary increases.

During today’s Summit County Council meeting, their proposed budget is requesting a 5% cost of living adjustment and up to a 5% merit increase. A potential 10% increase in salary. That’s Crazy.

I have checked with various people around the Snyderville Basin and few people are getting 5%. No one I spoke with has the potential for a 10% increase in salary unless they are self-employed.

Perhaps Basin Rec is asking for 10% in hopes they get 5%. The problem is that it makes the public begin wondering if Basin Rec is living too high on the hog.

In some ways, Basin Rec is a favored child of Summit County. Everyone wants trails. However, as I look across the Basin at fancy metal signs and piles of wood for construction, I wonder if our tax dollars are well spent. Many of us begin asking those questions when things go too far.

The potential for 10% raises is too high and it shapes my impression of the organization.

Why I voted for the Park City School Bond

There are no good or bad ideas. There is only execution.

So, I voted for the $79.2 million Park City School Bond. I wanted to give them the chance to execute.

I fought the 2015 school bond tooth and nail. The process they used was manipulative. After attending almost every meeting, I wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t corrupt. It was a total and unmitigated disaster.

I don’t get that feeling from this bond.

I do have the nagging feeling that this will be a little bit of the dog that chased the car and finally caught it. I explained the changes that will be coming to Jeremy Ranch Elementary to my oldest son and he asked how long until they are done. I said about two years. He said, “Good, I won’t go to school there anymore.”

No matter how you feel about it, the bond is going to pass. That has to feel good for the school district and school board.

However, the real challenges are ahead.

We have to expand the high school. We have to move 9th graders to the high school. We have to expand Ecker (not part of this bond but will be paid through taxes and bake sales). We have to expand Jeremy and McPolin elementary schools. We have to expand Trailside and Parley’s elementary schools (not part of this bond but will be paid through taxes and bake sales).

Can the school district execute that? Can they do it within budget? Can they do it on time?

Most importantly, can they increase the educational value to our students? They need to ensure that $129 million actually translates to helping our underserved and/or ELL students in getting a better education. Likewise, the rest of our students should have improved outcomes, as well.

$129 million+ is a lot of money on buildings if there isn’t an educational advantage. I look forward to understanding how the school district is planning on quantifying improvements in education.

I believe the Park City School Board and School District will look at tomorrow’s victory as a success. I look at it as a challenge.

I voted for this because I wanted to give our district a chance.

Now they need to return the faith.

Summit County, please use the $50 million in open space bonds to buy the Tech Park

Dear Summit County,

I hope you find yourself well. I have been doing well this past year. The harvest of Halloween candy seems plentiful, and I am hopeful that Thanksgiving will yield yams, potatoes, and other delights. If only Harmon’s could have taken over the Outlets at Park City sooner, we all may have all feasted on this coming holiday.

Abundance aside, I write to you with a simple request.

Although my property taxes have doubled over the past decade, and my sales taxes have increased too, I knowingly voted for your $50 million open space bond. I also realize that you didn’t want to hurt the current bond’s chances, so you have delayed additional tax increases until next year. I thank you for that consideration.

By paying increasing taxes every year, I believe I have shown sacrifice for you. I am hoping that you will return the favor.

Pray tell, will you please consider using every last dollar of the $50 million we have given you, to buy the Dakota Pacific Tech Park and make it into open space? I don’t care if it is only worth a fraction of this.

If you answer my prayers, I will no longer have to worry about basketball tickets and conflicts of interest. I won’t have to worry about whether this development will create more housing needs than it solves. I no longer will have to ponder why people who make 120% of the average median income ($100K a year) count toward affordable housing.

I am sure, in your infinite wisdom, you will see that a conservation easement that prevents development on this land makes our community stronger, our traffic less, and increases the well-being of all who live here. It will also make the land under the UOP look a lot less like Draper. Yes, I and my fellow landowners are each willing to pay you $1,040 over the next twenty-six years to preserve our way of life.

All we ask in return is you don’t screw up Kimball Junction any more than it is.

Thank you for your kind consideration.


Josh Mann

Dakota Pacific? Is the Summit County Council still considering this terrible development?

There would be few developments worse for the Snyderville Basin than The Dakota Pacific development at the Tech Park. I have spoken directly to County Council members about this at a meeting at Hearth and Hill. I have spoken during a meeting of the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission about this. I have spoken during a County Council meeting about this.

I am not alone. Some of the people who helped conceive of the Tech Park are against this. There are multiple posts on social media about this. There is a petition on its way to 1,000 signatures opposing this.

For those who have not been following this multi-year saga, Dakota Pacific, a local real-estate company, wants to take the land underneath the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) and make it another subdivision. There will be over eleven hundred apartments/condos. There will be 200,000 square feet of office space. There will be a hotel. There will be over 3,000 more people.

There will be more people than the city of Kamas stuffed into 60 acres below the UOP. Everything about Park City is crowded. Smashing a city the size of Kamas into the heart of Kimball junction is irresponsible.

The traffic impacts of 3,000 more people will be huge. The number of cars impacting Kimball Junction will be gigantic. How many residents will have one car? How many will have two cars? How many units will have two residents but at least one of them will drive to Salt Lake and back every day?

The water usage will be in the range of an extra 109,500,000 gallons of water each year for the residents of this development — not to mention more water required for landscaping, offices, etc. We are in a years-long drought. There is not enough water in Utah and we know that we have many existing entitlements that already have the rights to be built out. Where is the extra water going to come from?

Likewise, what are impacts of this developments on our schools? The County Council will be quick to tell you that they can’t consider this. However, in OUR REAL WORLD, you have to consider this. With more than a thousand new units how many more school aged children will there be? 300? 500?. Where will elementary students go to schools? Parley’s Park? Jeremy Ranch? They are full. In fact, we are voting on a bond that addresses those issues but it doesn’t account for this. If this is allowed, the school district will likely need to build another school on their property in Bear Hollow. It’s not a great spot, but they own it. The development will likely cost $20 million. That’s not planned for at all.

Let’s also not forget that the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission forwarded a negative recommendation to the County Council about the project. If the Council doesn’t listen to its own Planning Commission, what is the Planning Commission’s purpose? To rule over the slopes of driveways and fence lines? People on the Planning Commission have spent too much time and are too talented for their opinion to be overlooked on something this important.

That said, not everyone is against the plan.

Advocates say the project will provide needed, affordable housing. They state that Dakota Pacific Real Estate will help encourage UDOT to solve transportation problems at the Kimball Junction interchange. They argue that this property could provide needed transportation solutions like a better transit center. They claim the property will demonstrate the type of multi-use development we should have where residents will be able to walk to supermarkets and shopping. They conclude that the Tech Park is a failed idea, so why not throw a local developer a bone?

Let’s take a look at each of those issues.

Affordable Housing

The Park City area is the poster child for a confluence of affordable housing events that are striking most parts of our country. We have a resort community that relies on low-paid wages to fuel our economic engine. We buy open space and prevent development. We have strict rules about development. Property values are already sky high. So, it is easy to say, “we should build anything as long as it has an affordable housing component.” In truth, that is so misguided. Yes, in every development we should have an affordable housing component. However, we should not use affordable housing to justify doing bad developments. This is one of those.

Let’s look at the affordable housing estimates for this development and see what they provide. 55 units are slated to be rented at a price that can be afforded by folks making 30% to 50% of the Snydeville Basin’s area median income. The Snyderville Basin’s AMI as of 2019 (last on record that I could find) is $74,516 a year. That is the average income of someone living in Basin. So there will be 55 units that can be rented out for folks making $22K to $37K per year. That covers folks making $10-$17 per hour. So, out of this development we have 55 units that are affordable for most of our quick serve, super market, and Vail Resorts seasonal workers.

Dakota Pacific will rent 201 units at 40% to 80% of AMI (salary range of $29K to $60K). That’s below our teachers’ starting salaries but includes a number of other workers. Finally there are 80 “attainable units.” This “affordable housing” is for individuals making 100% to 120% of AMI. That is $74K to $89K a year. That’s a lot of money.

Is it enough to justify the impact of this development? Are we willing to trade what we have now for this development? That’s is the real question.

Is the affordable housing presented really affordable? Are we really locking people into rental-servitude that is being pushed by folks like Black Rock. Normally, I would say that the bargain is up to the buyer, but in this case WE are involved in creating that bargain.

I don’t believe this bargain is worth it. We don’t HAVE to give up a prime piece of real-estate, that will increase our traffic, reduce our water, impact our schools, and pack more people into our small town.

UDOT and Traffic

I consider the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) as the most powerful organization in Utah. Their budget is in the multiple billions of dollars. So, we are dependent on the kindness of UDOT and influence that our partners may have to make things happen.

The central idea of this development is that Dakota Pacific will use their influence to encourage UDOT to “fix” transportation issues in Kimball Junction. Many ideas have been floated. One idea is called a FLYOVER that would push traffic beyond Kimball Junction and into the Snyderville area. In human terms, imagine the concrete structure at the convergence of I-80 and Highway 40 implemented at Kimball Junction. That is a flyover. Would you like that at the entrance to Kimball Junction? I wouldn’t. I became involved in Summit county politics over a decade ago because I felt the newly built Del Taco blocked the ridge line view. This potential solution is 100 times worse.

Another idea is that UDOT would build a tunnel underneath Kimball Junction to route traffic from I-80 towards Park City. The two questions you must ask is what is the cost and have you ever see it before in Utah. The answer is hundreds of millions of dollars and no. Unless you have invested in Elon Musk’s Boring Company, you would likely not be in favor of this gamble.

Other ideas include making a bypass off of I-80 going through the Hi-Ute Ranch. However that land can’t be developed due to easements. Another idea is making a bypass cross over the Swaner Nature Preserve. That likely won’t fly as well for the same reasons.

That said, I could be short sighted. Maybe I am wrong and there is some magic to solving traffic in Kimball Junction. However, I would encourage you to ask yourself whether you believe a real estate company will actually solve our transportation issues at Kimball Junction. If so, the trade-off may be good enough for you. I don’t believe it will really happen, though.

Transit Center and Walkability

I have followed this development for many years. One of the defining characteristics, is that our county leaders talk about how this development will signal a new way of living in Park City. They envision that people living in “Dakota Heights” will walk to Smith’s and Walmart for groceries? Will some? Yes. Will most? No. Would you walk 3/4 of a mile in 12 inches of snow to get your groceries? That miscalculation can’t define this development but some leaders think it justifies the development.

Likewise, will most people living in “Dakota Heights” take the bus? I believe that 6% of people in Salt Lake take a bus regularly (and that’s a good number). Will we be substantially better than that? Maybe? Perhaps the dynamics of High Valley Transit are better. However, I take the bus quite often and I am generally one of three (or less) people on the bus. If this will really be a transit first development, remove the parking. Then remove the street parking. Don’t charge for parking because that’s regressive. Just say there is none.

I’d be much more inclined to believe the transit impacts would be negligible if there was no parking available for these 1,100 units. Yet, I don’t think Dakota Pacific would sign up for that because they know the truth. No matter what public transportation options are put into this development, most people will drive. They’ll drive into Park City. They will drive to Salt Lake. They will drive back. They will drive to the super market. They will drive to ski. They’ll drive to work. I get it. Many people drive to do those things. However, we don’t need 3,000 more people doing that. Especially in a congested area like Kimball Junction.

Tech Center is a Failed Idea

One of the arguments that advocates for changing the Boyer Tech Center into SLC Gateway 2 is that the tech center was a failed idea and it will never work. Tech will never come here. Therefore, we should convert it into housing, retail, office space, and a hotel.

The question I have is how effective Boyer was at pitching Park City? Were they good at pitching our tech center concept at conference, sales events, and meetings? I then question Dakota Pacific’s interest in fulfilling that mission. Did they buy a place that they wanted to make a Tech Center or did they think the county would fold, against our best interests, and they would get a steal.

The truth is that we need to diversify what we do. We shouldn’t be a one-trick-resort-pony. The truth is that there are many reasons for the land owners to not fight the long and hard battle of making us the next Silicon Slopes. It’s easier for them to throw up the next Draper.

However, that’s what they signed up for. That’s what we are owed. I’m not I’m not inclined to accept that this area has to become Little Draper. I’m not inclined to give it away. This is prized land. It’s valuable.

As we sit right now, the only body able to change the course of Dakota Pacific admin more congestion to Kimball Junction is the Summit County Council. So, I present the following arguments to them:

The future value of this property is so much higher tomorrow than it is today. If this was a house and you didn’t need to sell it, would you? No. The potential use for this property is so much greater in future. If we want a retail center, then we could do that at any time.

You know UDOT. There are no guarantees that they will do anything. More than that, even if they do something, there is no guarantee that their actions will fix hard problems. If you could trust them to have your back, they would have allowed an exemption for an off-ramp at I-80 and the Ecker Hill Park and Ride.

The additional water use additions are almost unconscionable. This development represents more than 100 million extra gallons of water used per year — that we don’t have. Then take into account the medium term impact of the shit-show that can be Wasatch County development and there is not enough water for this.

And finally, with affordable housing, I know we all want teachers, health workers, etc. who work here to live here. It makes for a stronger community. However, in this case the tradeoffs of traffic, water, and worse quality of life for our residents aren not worth it for the hundred units of actual affordable housing.

For everyone else, the question is whether you believe this development will provide a better quality of life for you. I could care less about providing a better quality of life for those people who don’t live here.

Perhaps this development will make things better for the entirety of the Snyderville Basin. I am skeptical. I view this as a cash grab by a developer who hoped they could influence the public to give them gold for nothing.

I don’t think that is how we should do things. I hope the Summit County Council will put an end to this idea.

If you want to reach the County Council, you can email:

If you want to sign the petition against this concept, please click here.