I received an email a few days ago asking if I had read the Park Record article on the projected growth in our area. The article does a great job highlighting all the available land with development rights in our area. There IS A LOT of land ready to be developed. Yet, what I have a little problem with is the leap from “what’s available to build/sell” to “who will actually buy it.”
Much of the land in question has had those development rights for a long time and nothing has been built. Why not? It didn’t make economic sense to actually build something. It was worth more to the owner to sit on the land and wait or to sell someone else on the future prospects (and have them wait).
So just because the land is available, it doesn’t mean that it will be swallowed up. There needs to be a trigger for growth. For instance, Silver Creek Village (by Home Depot) does have some 1300 units apportioned. However, it scheduled to be built out over 20 years. Don’t you think if they could sell 1300 units right now, at a “good” price, they would? Likewise, Park City Heights (by the movie studio) is scheduled to have a little under 300 units. They are lining buyers up for 100 units now. The affordable units are scheduled to be sold over the next 5-10 years. The point is that rampant growth isn’t going to happen immediately or probably even in the next decade.
The other issue is that most people who cry “growth” have some vested interest in the idea of growth. It is either the Governor’s Office who wants to show that Utah is doing fabulously because of their efforts. It is local government who seems to like to have problems to solve and the tax dollars associated with more development. It is property owners who want to use growth as a reason to drive up their values to sell their property to someone else.
If you take a look at long term trends, for instance in home ownership, you’ll see that it has almost never been lower (since it began being measured).
So it makes me wonder who is going to buy all this available property. Second home owners? Probably in a lot of cases. Then it makes me wonder if owners will be foolish enough to develop the land, if returns are low (due to lack of demand). I don’t think so in the medium term (unless the economy really goes bad and they need the money).
In the long run, we are likely looking at the Park City area being another suburb of Salt Lake City, just like Draper. And unfortunately there is not much we can do about it, as that ship sailed a long time ago. However, the long run could be 50 years. A lot can happen in 50 years. Skiing could no longer be an option here.
While we wait on what could happen in 50 years, we need to concentrate on the next 5 years. We need to make sure we aren’t listening to the boy who cried growth and making bad investments during the interim. Squandering time and money now, on something that will happen in 20 years, is a recipe for disaster. We’ll just have to spend more money then to correct the problems caused by our actions today and really fix the issues of the future.
To be sure, it is a tricky situation. We don’t want to be caught off guard and have to play catch-up but we don’t want to waste money prematurely either.