The Community Discussion Should Begin Soon about Summit County Buying the Land Between Jeremy Ranch School and the Burt Brothers
As many people have heard, Summit County purchased an option to buy about 30 acres of land between Jeremy Ranch Elementary School and Burt Brothers. In the county’s press release, they stated they may be looking at putting affordable housing or some sort of transit solution on the land. Over the past few days, this has caused some concern on social media sites like NextDoor and with a few people I have spoken with.
The concerns seem to stem from both the affordable housing component and the transportation component. People aren’t so sure they really want affordable housing next to a school or that they want it at all. As for transportation, people seem concerned that a park and ride will bring more people into the Jeremy Ranch area, and that will make the Jeremy Ranch interchange as big of a mess as Kimball Junction.
I had the chance to sit down with Summit County Manager, Tom Fisher, and Summit County Council Chairperson, Roger Armstrong, on Friday to talk about the topic. The first question I asked of Mr Fisher was why they thought this was the right spot for a transportation hub and affordable housing. Mr Fisher quickly corrected me and told me that no decisions had been made on what may be going there. He said that they wanted to receive community input before making any decisions. Mr Armstrong said that there are a limited number of parcels available for purchase and that when this became available it made sense to at least consider it for use by the county and its residents. Mr Fisher and Mr Armstrong both spoke of two of the top priorities, per citizen surveys, and the need to make things better. Those priorities being transportation and affordable housing. That is why they listed them as potential solutions in the county press release about the purchase of the land.
That’s the good news. It appears the county views this as a potentially valuable piece of land that can be used in a numbers of ways. While the statements about affordable housing and transportation in the press release provide an idea of where some in the county would like to go with the land, it really sounds like it is open for debate. Other options (in my view… and not necessarily Summit County’s) could include a recreation center (pool, park, field house). It may prove a better place for a new Park City school than the Ecker Hill campus does. Perhaps we want an extension of the business park where the Burt Brothers is, since it seems to be so busy these days. Perhaps we want some restaurants and small retail like a pharmacy. Perhaps we want a park and ride. Perhaps we want to preserve it as open space.
Or perhaps we would prefer to leave the land as it is zoned. That would mean someone could build just one house on the entire 30 acres.
It really is up to us as citizens.
After my meeting with the county, I don’t believe they plan anything “nefarious” with the land. They are just keeping their options open. However, it is up to us as citizens to guide those options. The county’s goals may or may not align with yours. That alignment will likely guide your attitude toward whether the county should ultimately buy this land.
Keep in mind that the county only purchased an “option” to buy the land. They have until January 2017 to decide whether they actually want to proceed with it. Your feedback to the county in the next few months will likely drive the direction they will take.
I firmly believe the county learned from the school bond failure. They know they will have to make a concrete proposal to the public before they spend almost $4 million on this land. They will have to tell us who any proposed partners are in the deal (i.e. Mountain Lands Community Housing Trust, the school district, UDOT, Park City, Vail, etc.). They’ll need to convince us that traffic on a two-lane Rasmussen Road can handle whatever they propose (or that it can be expanded). They’ll need to convince Jeremy Ranch residents that whatever they do will positively impact home values (or at least not reduce them). They’ll need to convince Jeremy Ranch Elementary School Parents that it introduces no safety issues with their children. They’ll need to convince all residents, if they decide to build a transit station, that people will actually stop on their way in from Salt Lake and ride a bus into town. They’ll need to convince Pinebrook and Jeremy Ranch residents that the proposed interchange improvements have accounted for the added traffic a successful project would bring.
Simply stated, they’ll need to convince a majority of people that, all in, this is the right thing for our community.
We have smart people with good ideas in our government. If they put themselves in the average-residents shoes, they’ll likely come up with good solutions. However, they only have about 10 months to gather input, make plans, gather input, find partners, gather input, go through our planning commission, gather input, hold meetings with the county council, gather input and make an ultimate decision on whether to buy this land. Borrowing the words from a Jerry Reed song, “they have a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
We hope that community meetings to begin gathering feedback start soon. While the feedback we have heard has been negative to date, that’s not surprising. People aren’t typically rushing to speak in favor of an idea they like (they just assume it will happen). So, many people could be in favor of this idea. However, it will be up to both sides to make sure their opinions are heard in the coming months.