How would you describe Park City and the Snyderville Basin? Would you call it a mountain resort community? Would you call it a suburb? Would you call it an urban center? Perhaps more importantly, what do you want it to be?
We’ve recently been reviewing documents related to the county’s upcoming purchase of the Cline Dahle parcel. That’s the land between Jeremy Ranch Elementary and Burt Brothers. It provides an interesting insight into how the county seems to be thinking. You see, the county wants to buy the land and use it to solve problems. Currently the thinking is that it will be used for affordable housing and transit.
The “model” that they’ve apparently centered on is called Transit Oriented Development (TOD). Wikipedia says, “In urban planning, a transit-oriented development (TOD) is a type of urban development that maximizes the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport. A TOD typically includes a central transit stop (such as a train station, or light rail or bus stop) surrounded by a high-density mixed-use area, with lower-density areas spreading out from this center. A TOD is also typically designed to be more walkable than other built-up areas, through using smaller block sizes and reducing the land area dedicated to automobiles.”
In the case of Cline Dahle, Summit County Chairperson Roger Armstrong said our leaders were leaning toward using the Hilsboro Oregon Transit Oriented Development called Orenco Station as a model. Hillsboro is a suburb outside Portland, is Oregon’s fifth biggest city, and has a population of around 100,000 people. The Orenco TDO sits on about 210 acres. It’s also adjacent to light rail and right next to Intel’s largest facility in the world.
The problem we see in comparing and using solutions from a place like Orenco Station is that Orenco is comparatively urban to an area like Cline Dahle (or really anywhere around Park City). Orenco has light rail. Park City’s Affordable Transit Oriented Development would be centered on a bus stop. Orenco is over 200 acres in size. Cline Dahle is 22 acres. Orenco has a large Intel facility adjacent that employs 10,000 people. There is nothing like that in Park City. There are 1800 housing units, with 1200 more planned at Orenco. At a dense, 20 units per acre, taking into account some retail and spaces for buses, Cline Dahle would likely hold a couple of hundred units maximum.
The question is, will these urban style solutions work in Park City? Can you take only 20 acres, in the middle of relative nowhere, put in some apartments, a bus stop, some sort of small retail, and expect a majority of residents there to take public transportation most of the time? The residents aren’t going to work within close proximity (unless they work at Burt Brother’s, Cross Fit, or the school). There isn’t room (or need) for a supermarket so they’ll need to leave their neighborhood for that (probably drive). The only thing it seems like it would have going for it is that the bus stop could be really close to the apartments. Is that advantage enough to offset the additional cars put on the road through this expansion? We just don’t see it.
We’re not against transit oriented development completely. The Orenco Station has been a qualified success and has some good things to show for it. So, we could see how it would be a useful tool in Park City at the right location. Where would that be? While hindsight is 20/20, the Silver Creek Village, with its 1200 units near Home Depot, seems like a much better choice. There is room there and it would be a wonderful opportunity to try to stop some of that additional traffic that will be coming. Unfortunately that ship has likely sailed.
The other potential opportunity is down the Highway 40 corridor, just east of Home Depot. Last year Rory Murphy, on behalf of the Florence Gilmore estate, was trying to swing a deal where 90% of 400 acres of land would be converted to open space, with the rest being a new mixed use development. It stalled in the planning commission. While we would argue we’d rather have 20 homes on 400 acres rather than a huge development of thousands of homes, if the county really wanted to test urban planning this is the spot. It’s in an area that our planners have said will be the geographical center of Park City in 15-20 years. It’s wide open. The area could use the amenities, like a super market, that would make the neighborhood more self contained. Transit solutions could be designed from scratch to be optimum.
The real question is whether urban solutions are what we want. Do we want to have dense places, where thousands of people live? Do we want to take the number of people in Pinebrook and put them on 50 acres in six story condos, in the hope they’ll take public transport. Do we want to rezone property, to allow more people, with the hope that they will take the bus? Are we betting long-term on a rail system here and would people ride it?
Like it or not, we see the future of Park City as a suburb mixed in with a resort community. This is not an urban area. However, many of the plans we see seem to treat us like something we are not. We’re afraid the more we treat it as such, the more hodgepodge of solutions we see that will likely exacerbate the traffic and not provide a real solution.