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.
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.